Do you love to write and read? Do have a knack for spotting typoss? If you have answered yes to both of these questions and have spotted a spelling mistake and a double space, a career as a professional proofreader could be for you! Here we will discuss how to become a proofreader with no experience.
Proofreaders usually work in-house as part of a team, with other proofreaders, writers, copywriters and editors. They work behind the scenes and are needed across all industries. A proofreaders job could take them literally anywhere…
As a self-employed proofreader, you could be helping independent authors to get their work self-published. The self-employed or freelance proofreader has become more and more common to see. proofreaders have been known to work remotely, anywhere with a good internet connection. Perfect for people who love working in their PJ’s
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What is a Proofreader?
A Proofreader will check documents and articles for simple and complex errors. The roles of a proofreader can vary, depending on the medium and role. Traditionally, proofreaders worked for publishing houses, who would expect them to look through chunky manuscripts, checking the spelling and punctuation. Many would proofread novels.
Fortunately, due to the advancements of the internet, and attention spans becoming shorter, the majority of modern proofreading jobs are at a fraction of the word count. Jobs are a lot more varied than they use to be. This is great news as it opens more options for individuals, like possibly yourself.
You may choose to work for a marketing agency, the role could involve checking spelling mistakes and punctuation in advertising and even packaging. Or you may choose to be contracted out for a niche website project.
This could involve going through articles and tidying everything up. Website owners may ask you to correct sentence structures and switch paragraphs or even extend the role of proofreader and rewrite the whole thing, great if you are a freelancer and cross-sell your skills. The role of a proofreader can unexpectedly overlap with copywriting if you wish for it.
Some jobs can also involve rechecking long tedious lines of data entry. Or if you can read and write in multiple languages, translation proofreading is another area in which a skilled specialist proofreader could get involved.
Every proofreading job is different depending on the industry and what the client or employer needs. Fundamentally, the task of proofreading remains the same no matter where you work. The job is to ensure that text is free of errors before it is printed or published.
What issues do Proofreaders look for?
A proofreader generally checks for the following issues:
- Poor spelling and grammar
- Incorrect punctuation
- Clarity of meaning
- Layout errors
- Repeated words and double spaces
When proofreading, it’s important to find ways to communicate without misleading the reader. Incorrect spelling, grammar and punctuation can make a poor first impression. It can make a piece of writing untrusting. When we read through passages of text we expect to pace through the content with ease, while knowing when to pause and understand ideas that the author want to emphasise.
Clarity is important and sometimes underrated. We notice its absence but not its presence. We don’t always appreciate a clear message, it’s just expected. When it’s not right there are communication breakdowns. A proofreaders job is to remove all the inconsistencies.
In some roles, it is also a proofreaders job to make sure margins, titles and copy is correctly positioned along with the correct pagination.
What Skills Does A Proofreader Require?
Love and passion for reading and writing.
If you want to advance on the two points above, the below skills are paramount for a successful proofreader career.
- Native-level understanding of the English language
- Excellent written and communication skills
- Well organised
- Great concentration
- Computer literate
- Attention to detail
- Able to use own initiative
- Great under pressure
- Regular eye checks
- Time management
It also helps if you are good at pub quizzes or trivia, as a proofreader job can become very broad and can expand into different subject categories. You will also need to be able to adapt to learning and understanding unfamiliar topics, usually without adding your own judgement on the topic.
What Qualifications do I need to become a proofreader?
You do not need to have specific qualifications or a degree to become a professional proofreader, but having a degree in English or other languages will be highly desirable as well as having a degree in a specific industry.
A person with a degree in English and science are more likely to become a proofreader for a scientific journal than someone with no qualifications or just English. Utilizing what you already know will help to enhance your chances of success in this field.
Strong Language Skills
You should have an excellent command of the language that you are proofreading. This includes a thorough understanding of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure.
Attention to Detail
Proofreading requires a keen eye for detail. You should be able to spot errors, inconsistencies, and typos in written content with and without software.
Tone of Voice
Every brand has a specific tone of voice, and this has to be identified and consistently carried through. As well as this, some education on why branding is important may be useful prior to proofreading.
Good Time Management
Proofreading often involves working on multiple projects with tight deadlines (sometimes in different timezones). Effective time management skills will help you complete tasks efficiently and meet deadlines which ultimately makes the client happy.
Editing and Proofreading Software
Proficiency in using editing and proofreading software tools can be an asset if used properly. Examples include Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature, Grammarly, or other proofreading software that can assist in detecting errors.
While not mandatory, completing a course or training program in proofreading may provide valuable knowledge and practical experience. It can also enhance credibility and demonstrate commitment to the field.
Depending on your area of interest, having knowledge in specific industries or subject matters can be advantageous. For example, if you want to proofread academic papers, understanding academic writing conventions and terminology would be beneficial.
Building a portfolio of proofreading work is valuable. Proofreaders who have prior freelance or volunteer experiences can showcase and reference this when applying for new positions. This can include proofreading articles, blog posts, essays, or any other written materials.
Can proofreading be done from home?
Absolutely. In the past, it was nearly unheard of to work from home. Nowadays there are varieties of places where a proofreader with no experience can work, especially If the proofreader is self-employed, working on private self-published publications.
Some proofreaders enjoy working from their favourite coffee shop, while others work for bustling magazines, proofreading hundreds of articles per week.
Is proofreading a rewarding career?
Proofreading can be a very rewarding career. There are countless opportunities and directions to go in. You could specialise as an academic proofreader or set up your own proofreading business, allowing you to set your own hours and work around family and other commitments.
Many people think of proofreading as a dull and boring job for “bookworm” types. But, it can be a fascinating and fulfilling career path that allows you to learn about new things and interact with people from all over the world. The internet has changed the persona around the types of work proofreaders do, and with this comes possibilities of a more rewarding work-life balance.
The majority of proofreading jobs come from personal and professional connections. Once a client finds a proofreader that they enjoy working with, they usually retain them. Many publishing houses have databases of proofreaders to call upon when required. It just may be challenging to get your foot inside the door and on their lists, at these places especially if you are a proofreader with no experience.
If you are new in the world of proofreading, it may be tricky to find job openings. However, platforms such as Upwork and Fiver are great places for beginners to find work and gain experience with private clients. Flexjobs also advertise opportunities.
In a shifting industry, the importance of networking and doing a good job will stand you apart from everybody else and will ultimately lead you towards a successful career as a proofreader.
What are The Dangers Of Failing To Proofread?
Quality of work should always be the main priority of a proofreader, it’s their job after all.
Reputation is everything. If your work is no good, you may risk losing connections and clients both present and new.
Imagine if you received an article from someone which contained numerous errors and inconsistencies? Even worse if you had paid good money for it or had a big print run. You may feel insulted and even confused. How could the proofreader not be bothered to ensure the article was error-free?
sometimes you did nothing wrong and the client may be creating an excuse to blame somebody. Whether you did a mistake or not, it’s always a good idea to look into Professional indemnity insurance just in case anything like this happens. After all, mistakes make us human.
Proofreading needs to be taken seriously. Proofreaders commonly work on the below mediums;
The best blogs are easily readable, informative, entertaining, and maybe sometimes humorous.
No one wants to find answers to their questions in between rambling sentences with numerous spelling mistakes. The internet is already filled with huge amounts of inconsistencies. Adding more into the mix is not needed. facts and research need to be authoritative with the correct links to the articles, so readers can follow up, read, or research further.
School textbook resources for teachers, lecturers and students should be accurate. Teachers already have a hard enough job than to deal with a mistake printed into a textbook.
As we are on the topic of teachers, there are possibilities of teaching online, with no formal experience. Find out more here.
There is a growing trend towards authors self-publishing their own books such as novels. These can be uploaded and downloaded from suppliers such as Amazon.
Readers would rightly expect chapters to be in the correct order. Characters’ names and characteristics and the spelling of location names should be consistent as well.
Tricks to help you with replacing the same regular spelling mistake multiple times could be done by using a simple ‘find and replace‘ tool that most word processors and desktop publishers have. I would hate to do this manually 40 years ago!
Your message to a prospective client would get lost in the literature, such as a leaflet or brochures, are missing content that the reader is looking for, such as details, specifications, and purposes of the product, and general reviews.
Bad proofreading may result in products/materials being recalled. This can turn into a horror story.
Tips for Proofreading, to prevent mistakes when you have no experience.
Proofread backwards Begin at the end and work your way backwards. This will force you to look at each individual word rather than sentences or the meaning behind a piece of writing which can distract you away from the spelling.
Place a ruler under each line as you read it. This will give your eyes a manageable amount of text to read at a given time, a very useful technique should your eyes start to be falling asleep. As a proofreader, your job is read and that can bring bad eyesight. It’s advised you have regular eye checkups.
Know your own typical mistakes. Many people make repeated mistakes when writing. Once you can identify what errors you make, you know what to check for.
Proofread for one or two types of error at a time. To increase productivity you can check for different errors on each page at a time. As an example, you could start by just checking for capital letters and full stops and then once satisfied, can move onto spelling.
Take breaks; When we have been staring at a piece of writing for a long period of time, we can start to miss things and forget what we are actually meant to be doing. Make yourself a Latte instead.
Proofread out loud. This will slow you down and you will hear the difference between what is written down and how people actually say it.
Read it again. If your client has allocated a certain amount of hours on a project and you finish earlier, go over the writing again to make sure everything is correct.
Use the spell-checker on your computer, but don’t rely on it. Computer spell-checkers often make errors. A word may be suggested or automatically changed. Spell-checkers don’t always know the difference between there, they’re, and their, for example.
Remember that editing isn’t just about errors. I bet that you are amazed at how involved a proofreaders job can be. Polish your sentences, make them smooth, interesting, and clear.
Watch out for very long sentences, since they may be less clear than shorter, more direct sentences. Pay attention to the rhythm of your writing; try to use sentences of varying lengths and patterns. Look for unnecessary phrases, repetition, and awkward spots. Finally, keep learning, keep writing and keep reading.