Job in proofreading

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Emma Forbes needs to know the rules of English inside out. As a proofreader she is responsible for checking all written material for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. But, as she explains here, she has to be creative and good at solving problems too.

What kind of things do you proofread?

The projects are different each week, and sometimes each day. I have been working on professional textbooks and conference papers for an insurance company, who have also asked for help developing a house style so that all their material can be written in the same way. I am also proofreading an academic book and a play for a theatre publisher.

How do you actually check a document?

I read the book or report through for typing mistakes and errors, and compile a list of words or things that might not be consistently applied – for instance, the way hyphens and capitals are used. I cross-check headings and page numbers against the contents page and I type up a list of queries for the client.

How long does your work take you?

I spend about 80 per cent of my working week proofreading or editing onscreen on a computer or with printed documents. I'm self-employed, so it's up to me to find my work and promote myself, and also to invoice clients and keep my accounts up-to-date. A good thing is that I can organise my own workload – as long as I meet my deadlines.

What equipment do you use?

All I need is a computer, an internet connection, a phone, some basic reference books – and some peace and quiet!

Why did you choose your job in proofreading?

I've always been good at English, and I'm a big reader and creative writer. A first-class command of English is at the core of everything I do. If I'm advising a client about wording, as well as checking for errors, I also need to consider writing style and who the reader will be.

What's the most difficult part of proofreading?

Meeting deadlines. Sometimes I might have to work extra hours to achieve them.

Emma's route to her job in proofreading

  • A levels.
  • Trained as a journalist on trade magazines.
  • Set up her own business four years ago.

Emma's proofreading tips

  • Not everyone's cut out for working on their own.
  • You won't be reading future best-selling novels all the time! In reality, most material is much less exciting.

Proofreading related jobs

  • Copy editor
  • Newspaper Editor
  • Publishing Editor
  • Journalist
  • Technical author

Salary of a proofreader

  • Recommended hourly rates range from £16 up to £35 in the business sector and for short deadlines or specialised subject areas.
  • Most proofreaders are self-employed but some publishing houses still employ full-time readers.
  • Starting salary for employed proofreaders would be around £16-£18,000.

Job in proofreading

  • Many proofreaders have had careers in publishing or journalism.
  • Many proofreaders have a degree – this could be in English or a subject that becomes their specialist field for proofreading.
  • Journalism qualifications can be useful.
  • The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) and the Publishing Training Centre(PTC) offer short courses.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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