Proofreading is the last quality check before a product goes out into the world. Classically, it is “checking that all elements were in place, set according to design parameters, and that no errors [typos] were made in composing the plate of movable type.”
When Proofreading Happens
Really, proofreading should be done on a sample of the final output, whether that be a bound book, an app, or a T-shirt. It is the last step in quality control before the public sees the words.
What Proofreading Is
This stage in the process is where those fancy proofreading marks get applied (to a paper printout or a PDF) to mark corrections.
Industry Definitions of Proofreading
Some professional organizations have laid out standards for what is and what is not proofreading, but the reality is often more nebulous and clients (especially those outside of the publishing industry) use “proofread” to mean all manner of editing. Your job is to figure out what they need, can afford, and have the means to implement.
- Editors Canada definition and standards.
- EFA description (US).
- SfEP definition and National Occupational Standards for Publishing (UK).
- AFEPI definition (Ireland).
What Proofreading Is Not
Proofreading is too late in the publishing process to edit for grammar, mechanics of style, or consistency. There is unlikely to be time or budget for reorganizing, incorporating reviews, clarifying meaning, or smoothing language. Neither is it the time for coding, fact checking, or securing permissions.
Verify What Is Wanted
You can sometimes divine what “level” of edit is wanted by where the material is in the production process, but if you’re asked to “take a look at” written words, or even if you’re asked to proofread, it’s best to clarify what is wanted. Present the list of proofreading checks and ask if that covers what the manager expected.
Do your assignments get called “proofreading” even if they dig deeper into content? How do you sort out what kinds of changes are wanted on a file? Log in to leave a comment, or join the discussion over on Facebook or Twitter.