Things I’ve Learned on My Proofreading Course

As many of you who read this blog will know, I’m a compulsive word nerd and in the past 2-3 years, I’ve turned this passion into an editing and proofreading service. Recently, I decided to step up this side of my overall writing business and I embarked on a proofreading course, to help me hone my skills and deliver more accurately and consistently edited copy to my clients.

So far, the biggest discovery I’ve made is that we don’t know as much about grammar as we think. I’ve wrestled with questions like, “When does a comma go before an and?” and “Should I break this sentence up with a semi-colon or a dash?” I’m going to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned so far, which I hope will be useful in your writing and editing work.

 1. Commas Are Going Out of Style

This is what I was told in my first batch of feedback from the course tutor. Previously, any time, there was a long sentence, the individual sections were divided with commas. Now a long sentence is allowed to flow with as few breaks as possible as long as it makes sense. I’m having terrible withdrawal symptoms as a result of this; I itch to put them into the assignment texts we have to proofread.

 2. Don’t Over Edit

If a sentence is basically correct, but reads oddly  to you, it is best left alone. It’s probably written in a different style to what you would choose and if you as an editor were to remove it, you’d be taking from the author’s original style. If you’re proofreading, unless there’s a glaring grammatical error, carry on. Otherwise you’ll be bogged down and waste a lot of time.

 3. Read Carefully

We’re so familiar with the words we read that we automatically correct any errors that we see. That’s why typos appear in even the most word-savvy writer’s work.  Thin letters like i and l and capital letters can be the hardest to spot. When proofreading or editing, slow down and take in each word, so the errors will become clearer.

To find out about The Publishing Training Centre’s distance learning proofreading and copyediting courses, visit


5 thoughts on “Things I’ve Learned on My Proofreading Course

  1. Cool. Glad to see another word nerd! Although (or because) English is not my native language, I always go crazy on Google and UsingEnglish, for example, before I settle on a word or punctuation. To me, your post is another reminder that there’s just so much to learn about the English language. Good luck with your (new) career! 🙂


  2. Interesting post, Derv. It made me think about referees in rugby games, especially, and the way they control the flow of a game. Editors and commas seem to be in the same trap.. So much to be said for flow but what about the ”real’ rules?


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