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How to become a Proofreader

proofreader careers

What does a Proofreader do?

The job of proofreader is similar to that of copy-editor or sub-editor, but comes later in the publishing process. Proofreaders check material that has been typeset, whereas editing is done before typesetting. Most proofreading is done on hard copy, and proofreaders use British Standards Institute (BSI) symbols to correct work. Proofreaders mark corrections for the typesetter to make. There is increasing use of computers in proofreading work.

Proofreaders carefully read ‘proofs’ prepared or written by someone else. This is done prior to publication to ensure that the text is both accurate and consistent. In the past proofreaders compared the proofs with the marked-up (copy-edited) typescript, but now proofreading is often done “blind” (not against the typescript) as copy-editing is increasingly done on-screen.

The main proofreading tasks include:

  • ensuring the spelling, punctuation and grammar of the piece is accurate
  • checking the factual accuracy and consistency of the text
  • ensuring that the text fits into a distinct house style (usually dictated by the publishing company)
  • checking the typesetter has followed the copy-editor’s instructions
  • checking that all the material is included and put in the correct place.
Proofreaders work with various types of publication. Part of the work done by sub-editors on newspapers, magazines and websites will be proofreading. Most proofreaders are self-employed ‘freelancers’ and many proofreaders also provide copy-editing services.

What's the working environment like working as a Proofreader?

Freelance proofreaders work from home with hours to suit themselves, based on the availability of work. Employed proofreaders will usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They might need to work additional hours in order to meet deadlines. Part-time and flexible work may be available.

What does it take to become a Proofreader?

To work as a proofreader you will need:

  • a good command of English, particularly grammar and spelling
  • concentration, accuracy and great attention to detail
  • good IT skills
  • self-motivation and a methodical approach
  • the ability to cope with repetitive tasks
  • tact and diplomacy
  • clear handwriting.

Proofreader Career Opportunities

Most proofreaders are self-employed and work as freelancers. There are very few positions for full time, in-house proofreaders and there is a lot of competition for work. It is more common to work as a copy-editor or sub-editor. Jobs may be advertised in the national press or in specialist publications such as The Bookseller and Publishing News, which can be ordered through newsagents or may be available in reference libraries.

Few proofreaders earn a full-time living from this work, but the flexibility of freelance work enables many proofreaders to combine this role with another job.

With the growth of internet publishing there are new employment opportunities in proofreading and editing material for websites.

With experience proofreaders may build up their reputation as specialists in a particular field, or be offered more high-profile work.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Proofreader that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)
Riverbank House
1 Putney Bridge Approach
Tel: 020 7736 3278

Women in Publishing

The Publishers Association
29B Montague Street
Tel: 020 7691 9191

The Publishing Training Centre at Book House
45 East Hill
SW18 2QZ
Tel: 020 8874 2718

Courses to help you become a Proofreader