I’m about to submit my exercises for Unit 4 of my proofreading course with The Publishing Training Centre. I’ve already written about things I’ve learned on my proofreading course. I was further reminded of how much is involved in proofreading when I posted on Facebook that I’d become more alert to typos since starting.
‘Have you seen this?’ an experienced editor replied. She pointed me to an article by an editor who was exasperated by wannabe proofreaders approaching her, saying they were great at spotting typos in books. Yes, I was guilty of this thinking too, and now I’m nearing the end of my course, I’ve come to see that there are other traits and skills that you need. Here are the three main ones, as I see it.
1. Strong Visual Awareness
As a proofreader, you need to have a sense of how words should look on a page, as well as how they’re spelt. You need to develop a strong inner eye, so you can spot inconsistencies in spacings between paragraphs and headings. This inner eye will also help you detect errors in font style and formats like bold, italics etc, or letters that have been wrongly capitalised. This strong visual sense is particularly useful for sections of the text that follow a specific layout, like bullet point lists and references.
2. A Thorough, Methodical Approach
You may have seen an email where words are jumbled up, but the first and last letters stay the same, so you can still read them. Our brains naturally correct errors, which make them hard to spot. Also, when we’re tired, we tend to skip over words. The only answer is to slow down and be methodical in your approach, particularly when proofreading a document with headings where typos may lurk unseen.
3. And yes, you do need to be good at spelling and grammar
You need to be able to distinguish between words that have similar spellings, but very different meanings. If you’ve been asked to use British English (-ise spellings), you need to weed out instances where American spellings (-ize spellings) were used. Drawing on your own general knowledge will also help you spot typos.
Feel free to demonstrate your own proofreading skills and send me any humorous errors you’ve spotted.