Proofreading: a skill in its own right

But what is proofreading?

Punctuation | Grammar | Spelling | Format | Polishing | Quality check

Proofreading takes care of what are known in the industry as mechanical errors. These include mistakes in grammar, punctuation and spelling. A proofreader usually receives the text after it has been edited, and if proofreading did not form part of the editor’s role. Proofreaders may also signal alerts to any problems in content that might have been missed in the editing stage. Proofreading finishes the final product by refining the last glitches and improving the overall quality.


Why should proofreading never be left out

Many people misunderstand the importance of proofreading a report or document before finalising it for distribution. Sometimes, we even undermine its value. Writing that has many errors, even if it’s too many commas or not enough full stops, can appear untidy and may be difficult to read. Incorrect grammar and punctuation can also change the meaning of a sentence. We are all familiar with the grammar joke ‘Eats shoots and leaves/ Eats, shoots and leaves.’ The quality of your writing says something about you as the writer and could affect how people perceive you. Poor quality can be equated to lack of competence or knowledge. A clean, finished and well-polished piece of writing conveys pride, knowledge, confidence and expertise.


My role as proofreader

I have clients for whom I only proofread. These clients understand what it means for their work to be free of incorrect grammar, misspelled words and lengthy sentences that do not make sense. I recently corrected this statement: ‘I defer further omen to Dr Smith’s report.’ This is a classic example of incorrect meaning, but also highlights how easily our typing skills can be compromised by auto-correct functions. Should such a statement have reached the courts, as was intended with this document, my client would have had to explain what was meant. A proofread saved potential embarrassment and preserved her credibility, and possibly that of the doctor too!



‘Remove the comma, replace the comma, remove the comma, replace the comma…’

RD Ronald