Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps those brilliant authors whose books get published by top New York literary agents and publishers can’t write or spell as well as those 5-star editorial reviews claim? Or that publishers and editors frequently overlook critical spelling glitches, punctuation mistakes and missing words that can make a book (or any work) look substandard? If so, welcome to the life of the no-nonsense proofreader whose number one goal is to make any material look flawless and perfect.
The Skills of a Proofreader
Proofreaders carry the burden of producing perfect work on every project. A single error cannot exist as it could ruin the integrity of a printed work or product. Even though proofreading is usually grouped with copywriting and editing, a proofreader’s skills are distinct entirely. After preliminary editing for clearness and cohesion, the publisher will depend on the proofreader to examine the document’s format, style layout, spelling and any word errors/omissions.
Proofreaders have a remarkable wisdom of grammar; and their spelling skills are the best. Moreover, they tune in to microscopic details. They meticulously study every sentence and cross-reference it with the first document. Elsewhere, proofreaders pore over online content, print materials, brochures, ads, and all sorts of written material that needs proofing.
Editing text involves a few things, contingent upon the client’s needs and the type of medium (print, digital, pamphlets, books, etc). Don’t worry, since the prerequisites to turn yourself into a successful proofreader are not as abundant as you may think.
Style Manuals are a Must for Proofreaders
If you are proofreading print copy—such as a book, academic journal, or technical manual—then the executive editor or publisher will require you to understand the right “mark-up” rules, as determined by the preferred style manual. Many publishers use the Chicago Manual of Style (or Turabian Style) as a standard house style. Other large publishers will likely have you follow their own house style when you proofread their documents. Before advancing to the next (and final) stage of publication, the executive editor or publisher will review your corrections and revisions.
If you are employed by a less prominent client, then he may require you to proofread and copy edit his materials. Your client may not expect you to consult a specific manual of style, and you might feel that the project also requires rewrites (a task more suitable for a copywriter).
Landing Your First Proofreading Gig
Securing proofreading work could be challenging, because you have yet to prove your skills. Some great strategies to assemble an effective Curriculum Vitae is to apply for part-time/temp. work with a company or publisher that currently offers proofreading
services. You can also earn a degree, certificate or diploma that concentrates on basic editing; however, this is not necessary to win over cynical clients.
Developing partnerships with experienced copywriters and copy editors can produce a “trickle-down” effect because the overflow of their work will trickle down to you. Remember, your local neighborhood (mainly restaurants, accountants, mom-and-pop shops, and other service-related local businesses) can generate steady income and networking opportunities. Gigs may include rewriting and proofreading menus, brochures, website content, and advertising materials.
Alternative Ways to Find Proofreading Work
Pro-bono tasks on websites, blogs, and online content which demonstrate your writing and proofing skills are also beneficial. Encourage yourself to use unconventional alternatives such as contacting businesses and websites about their badly written content. You can offer to proofread and rewrite their poorly written material; and then let them see a sample of what you rewrote as evidence of your skills. While this strategy might not work every time, you may just convince a business owner to outsource work to you, and this will set things in motion for you.
Last Minute Advice
Your job criteria may be drastically different based on what your client expects. You can meet and exceed every client’s expectations if you do not rush through projects and you scrutinize every word and analyze every sentence. Your chance for stable work depends on being diverse and versatile. Prepare yourself to occupy roles as they come up, and you are certain to triumph.