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How to Become a Proofreader

Proofreading is the reading of hard or soft copies of materials to correct grammatical and factual errors. Hence, proofreaders occupy the last stage of typographic production before publication or printing. This career is suitable for individuals with a high level of attention to detail and the ability to use language effectively and persuasively.

The Work

While copyeditors are the gatekeepers tasked with protecting content against bad writing, minor errors often slip through. Proofreaders are charged with catching such errors. In detail, they perform the following roles;

  • Correct spelling and grammatical mistakes in publication proofs – This involves ensuring dates, headlines, captions, and names are written correctly
  • Ensure page numbers, margins, bullets and diagrams are correctly positioned
  • Correct confusing or ambiguous words
  • Ensure content written by different authors follows the agreed ‘house style’
  • Discuss with writers and authors before making changes that could result in publication delays or increase publication costs
  • Ensure final materials are attractive and appealing to the eye.

Work Environment

Proofreaders working as in-house employees in various publishing firms typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. When there are tight deadlines to be met, they may work late into the evening.

On the other hand, freelance proofreaders have flexible schedules since they set their working hours based on the amount of available work.

Irrespective of the mode of work, proofreaders work in an office environment.


Although the rates for proofreaders vary by level of experience, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders recommends a minimum hourly rate of £22.00. Therefore, full-time proofreaders working 40 hours a week can make around £43,000 annually.

Entry Requirements

In proofreading, your skills and experience are more valuable than your academic qualifications. However, with the growing competition for readers and the need for high-quality content, a degree in a relevant discipline is becoming essential.

Some of the most relevant disciplines include;

  • Journalism
  • English
  • Digital media

If you have a degree in a technical field, such as mechanical engineering, you can pursue additional publishing qualifications to proof scientific content.

So, how do you gain proofreading experience? You could;

  • Work in a library or bookshop
  • Write of proofread for student magazines
  • Proofread for small businesses or work on charity publications

You can also improve your skills by pursuing short courses offered by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and the Publishing Training Centre.

Remember to develop a work portfolio before hunting for paid employment. This showcases your skills to potential employers.

Important Skills, Abilities and Qualities

To be a competent proofreader, you should have;

  • An excellent grasp of the English language
  • A high level of attention to detail
  • Good computer skills to use various publishing software effectively
  • The ability to cope with the boredom that comes with dealing with repetitive tasks
  • Good time management and communication skills

Career Development

Most publishing companies provide on-the-job training for newly-hired proofreaders to help them familiarize with their ‘house styles’.

In this field, your reputation is a key career progression tool. Top publishing companies often hire well-known proofreaders. You should, therefore, put effort in growing your reputation by delivering excellent work.

In addition, you can join the SfEP’s accreditation and registration scheme, as well as professional organizations such as the Publishers’ Association and Women in Publishing for career support and networking opportunities.

Job Opportunities

Apart from working on a freelance basis, proofreaders can find full-time employment opportunities in;

  • Publishing companies
  • Learning institutions
  • Business firms
  • Law firms
  • Advertising and public relations agencies.

Useful Links

Liked this article? Well, it’s a product of good writing, editing and proofreading. You too could influence the quality of content people read by becoming a proofreader. Good luck!

Image Sourced: Florida Today

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