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How to Become a Proofreader: The Complete Guide

Updated: 2 days ago

Having a great understanding of a certain language does not only mean that you can read materials in it, watch movies, or just basically have the freedom to do anything with it. Though, not everyone thinks that it is a skill that you can monetize. It is entirely possible to do so if you become a proofreader.

This is the complete guide on how to become a proofreader with or without any previous skills or experiences in this particular (and rather fun) field of work.

Table of Contents

What does a proofreader do?

What skills are required to become a proofreader?

What types of proofreading jobs are there?

What software should you know?

How to get proofreading jobs?

What's next?

What does a proofreader do?

Essentially, what proofreaders do is already embedded in the name itself - proofreading. It is the last step in the publishing business, meaning that you, as a proofreader, are responsible for checking out if there are any grammar and punctuation mistakes, if the word usage in the material is correct, if there is any awkward phrasing if there are any page numbering, clarity, and style mistakes.

Things such as deletion of text sections, restructuring, rewriting, and so on are something that editors do. It is the midway part of the editing, whereas you, as a proofreader, would be the last line of defense in this regard.

One of the most important things to remember as a proofreader is that you are not supposed to edit. Your job is strictly limited to checking out the errors in language and syntax since it is this aspect that determines the quality of a piece of writing.

What skills are required to become a proofreader?

A lot of people may think that they need a degree (or some qualifications as well as proofreading experience) to become a proofreader. However, that is not the case. Of course, it does help, but it is not a necessity. The key proofreading skills that are required in order to get started and evaluate yourself as a potential proofreader would be these:

  • Excellent attention to detail;

  • Perfect understanding of grammar, spelling, and punctuation;

  • Time management;

  • Strong concentration;

  • Love for reading and overall comprehension skills.

Firstly, one of the most important skills that a proofreader needs to possess is excellent attention to detail. With long hours of reading and scrutinizing text, you will need to be able to spot even the slightest errors in grammar, punctuation, and style.

Spending hours on a long text could lead to not noticing smaller mistakes, whether it be a missing comma or a missing letter. Hence, having eagle eyes when it comes to looking at details is crucial in the proofreading and editing field.

editing editor proofreading proofreader document

Understanding grammar, spelling, as well as punctuation, is crucial for proofreaders. Punctuation and grammar are essential parts of the language. Punctuation is used to separate phrases, parts of a sentence, or sentences according to their meaning. It also helps in structuring your ideas. Spelling refers to how words are pronounced or spelled in a given language. Grammar is simply how we use words together to form coherent statements and paragraphs.

For proofreaders, it is crucial for them to have a good understanding of these components as they will be required to correct any grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and punctuation mistakes that may occur in the text during proofreading. This will help ensure that the content delivers what it promises with clarity and precision.

Often, the key proofreading skills outlined for current and future proofreaders is an understanding of grammar and great attention to detail. However, a lot of times, one crucial skill is often forgotten. That is time management.

Proofreaders have to have good time management skills because they have to work on multiple documents at the same time. They must know how much time they need to allocate for each document and be able to prioritize and keep track of deadlines. If a proofreader doesn't manage their time effectively, it can lead to poor quality work, missed deadlines, and frustrated clients.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps that every proofreader can take in order to better manage their time more effectively. These include setting goals and priorities for each project, breaking down complex tasks into smaller parts, and working hours that fit your schedule. Additionally, keeping organized with a system like Evernote or Google Keep can also help you stay on top of everything you need to do.

A strong concentration is also very important to become a professional proofreader. It sort of ties in with the first skill mentioned in this article since even the smallest of distractions and inability to deal with them could lead to missed mistakes and hence, a lower reputation for the proofreader. After all, in the proofreading services industry, catching mistakes is the most important thing.

Last but not least, even though it sounds like stating the obvious, love for reading is a must for those who wonder how to become a proofreader. After all, how can one become a proofreader without having a love for reading? It is a job based on attentive reading and catching mistakes. If you do not like the key material you work with, how can you start a proofreading career?

Some of these can be learned with life experience and pure reading, concentration, and so on, while the others can be learned from a proofreading course or two. There are loads of those available online, and a lot of them are completely free! Also, taking a proofreading test could evaluate your skills and compatibility with the proofreading business in general. As a side note, you should also check out a manual of style (such as the Chicago Manual of Style) to check what are the standards of proofreading.

What types of proofreading jobs are there?

Although you could be an all-around proofreader, this job has its specialty fields in which proofreaders are usually more versed than in the others. These areas are:

  • General proofreading;

  • Legal proofreading;

  • Publishing proofreading;

  • Translations proofreading;

  • Technical proofreading.

A general proofreader is someone who is able to do pretty much any proofreading job that there is. It could range from simple social media messages to long manuscripts, meaning that they possess the required skills for each type of document that there can be. In some cases, these specialists are the most sought-after, but other times being a general proofreader could mean that you are average at all of the types of proofreading jobs that there are but not an expert on some single type.

Out of more specialized proofreading jobs, another type of proofreading is legal proofreading. As the name suggests, proofreaders specializing in this particular field are concerned with legal documents, such as court proceedings, texts of law, official records, and so on. In order to be a legal proofreader, you would need to have exceptional comprehension skills. Imagine a legal document where some sentences could be interpreted in different and incompatible ways. It would cause a nightmare for everyone involved! However, despite this proofreading job being tied to the law, you do not need to have a law degree to become one. After all, your job is to check how correct and comprehensible the text is and not what legal implications it has.

proofreading proofreader document magnifying glass text correction

Publishing proofreading is tied to books. If you truly love reading, not as a job but as a hobby, and the challenge to read 50 books in a year does not sound scary, this might be the type of proofreading job that would suit you the best. It involves editing novels, regardless of their genre or type. Despite this, you could become an expert proofreader in a specialized genre, such as thriller novels or comedy novels. The book world is your oyster with publishing proofreading.

Translation proofreading is slightly more specialized as you would need a knowledge of multiple languages. The key point is the name itself. You would be checking out translations, how accurate they are, if there are any mistranslations, whether or not the right word as picked out, if there are any punctuation mistakes, and how comprehensive the text itself is. A successful proofreader in this field must be able to juggle different languages interchangeably as if all of them were native.

Technical proofreading is another specialized field of proofreading jobs that is concerned with proofreading and editing manuals, guides, and technical specifications of equipment and similar things. This type of proofreading job also requires the utmost attention to detail since punctuation errors or misspelled words could mean completely different and inaccurate documentation.

Picking out which type of proofreading suits you the best is a very important step on how to become a proofreader. However, as a start, it would be completely fine to try out every type of proofreading jobs. After all, you may think that technical proofreading is not for you, yet, after you try, you may see that this is the thing you have been dreaming of all your life!

What software should you know?

The software that proofreaders use is not that different from the casual day-to-day software that you may be using.

For example, a familiarity with the Microsoft Office suite or the Google G-Suite (the one that contains such online applications as Google Docs, Google Sheets, and so on) is a big plus if you wish to get into an online proofreading gig and get paid to proofread. Google, in this regard, has an advantage as it is free to use, and you would not need to purchase a Microsoft Office suite which is often expensive, especially if you intend to freelance rather than get an office job proofreading.

document text proofreading editing

You should also look into some grammar and spelling-checking extensions for your browser. They could help you identify any mistakes that you may have missed. However, you should not fully trust them. After all, if you could, there wouldn't be such a profession as proofreading! The things to look out for are not necessarily wrong suggestions but rather ones that could make the sentence being corrected incomprehensible.

These extensions do not have a contextual understanding of the text, meaning that sometimes the suggestions they make can result in more mistakes rather than corrections. And thus, it would make the proofreading you are doing much less professional.

How to get proofreading jobs?

Now that we have the basics out of the way let's discuss how to find clients and get proofreading jobs themselves.

Proofreading work is important for all sorts of clients and businesses (even for content creators all over the internet). After all, incorrect texts will make people perceive the business at hand as unprofessional. This is where you, as a proofreader, come in!

Firstly, you need to decide if you would like to do proofreading jobs full-time or part-time. It is key to make this decision for time management issues that can happen if you are not sure. We would also recommend making a decision (if possible) whether you would like to do online proofreading as a freelance proofreader, which opens up an opportunity to proofread anywhere (like from your own home), or if you would prefer to have an office-based job on-site.

After you make these decisions, start checking out various different job boards to check if anyone is looking for a proofreader to do their thing. Due to the massive demand for these workers, there surely will be some prospective clients asking for proofreading services and will give you the job you ask for.

proofreading mistakes document magnifying glass

Since the variety is huge, make sure to check the full job description once you decide to go for one. Evaluate your skills, so you do not take a job that is too difficult or complex for you. If you are just starting out, for example, it would not be wise to go for a technical proofreading job. Smaller jobs will help you practice and to increase your skills. You can start going up the ladder with more experience that you earn.

Smaller and less professional jobs can be found all around your local community, for example, on the social media pages that it has. Freelancers tend to lurk there, writers do too; hence, it will provide you with valuable training and practice in the form of proofreading jobs.

Also, there are numerous freelancing websites all over the web where you can offer your services to everyone. Sort of like a reverse job board, if you will. Listing your proofreading services there is usually free and could be a great kickstart to your career. Find some popular gig working website and post your offer there. It will not hurt, especially if you decide to work part-time.

What's next?

Once you have built your portfolio and gained enough training as well as experience, you can start going further in the proofreading business.

Proofreaders earn roughly $25 000 per year working personally. If you decide to start your own business focused on online proofreading, you can earn way more than that. You could help other proofreaders find jobs and help them rise to the top as you did.

If business is not something you strive for, you can always create a course on how to become a proofreader for those who wish to become one and join the proofreading business.

If you just wish to stay a freelance proofreader, you can extend your qualifications for even better job offers by taking some proofreading course, joining college, get some training in other ways. It is evident that some companies prefer those who have proven and written skills (such as education) and not actual work experience, as sad as it may be.

As you can see, becoming a proofreader is not as difficult as it may seem at first. With the help of this guide, you should be able to become one in no time. Remember, never give up and keep on perfecting your skills!

In case you figured out that proofreading is not something that you would like to do, try passive income instead. With Honeygain, you will gain money without reading, writing, or editing!

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