Advice

*

Job Description: Proofreader.

Published

A proofreader performs a 'quality check' on publications, usually just before they are due to go to print.

Proofreaders get involved after others, such as the author, editor and typesetter, have done their jobs. It is the proofreader's role to act as a fresh pair of eyes, spotting any mistakes others might have missed.

Job Description, Salaries, Benefits and Useful Links

A proofreader performs a 'quality check' on publications, usually just before they are due to go to print. They may work on books, magazines and newspapers, websites, as well as publications aimed at a specialist audience, such as academic or business reports.

Proofreaders check that:

  • the text matches the original
  • spelling and style are correct and consistent
  • page numbers, headings and captions are correct
  • photos and illustrations are correctly captioned.

When they identify a change that needs to be made, proofreaders mark it, using a recognised set of symbols. They usually mark the printed proofs, but sometimes this task may be done on screen, using specialised software.

Most proofreaders are self-employed and work from home. Many work part time, and the hours may be irregular.

Proofreaders negotiate their own fees. A freelance proofreader may earn around £15,000 when starting out, and with experience could earn up to £25,000.

Proofreaders need to be:

  • scrupulous about detailed work
  • skilled in written English
  • self-motivated
  • good at concentrating for long spells
  • good communicators
  • comfortable working with IT
  • interested in the publishing industry.

Publishers, graphic design houses and printers employ proofreaders on a full-time and freelance basis. Other potential employers or clients include any organisations that produce a lot of published materials, from retail chains to government bodies.

There are no set formal qualifications. Proofreading experience is important. However, many employers also expect A levels/H grades in English and other subjects. Some proofreaders have a degree in English or another subject.

Proofreaders in employment train on the job. Freelance proofreaders need to fund their own training. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders and the Publishing Training Centre offer a range of courses on proofreading and related subjects.

Proofreaders advance by earning a reputation in the industry. They may move on to specialise in a particular field of publishing. Some train in related skills such as copy-editing.

 

What is the work like?

They may be asked to check material for:

  • books of all kinds
  • magazines and newspapers
  • business publications
  • website pages
  • specialist publications, eg academic journals or technical manuals.

Proofreaders usually check a 'page proof' - a printer's image of the designed pages. They may also check draft web pages or pdf (portable document format) files.

Sometimes they compare the page proofs closely with the edited text. Alternatively, they may proofread 'blind', without reading against the original.

The proofreader generally checks to ensure that:

  • the text matches the original
  • page numbers and headings are correct
  • spelling and other aspects, such as use of capital letters, are consistent
  • chapter headings match the contents table
  • photos and illustrations are correctly captioned
  • the pages as a whole are logically arranged and look pleasing.

When they identify a change that needs to be made, proofreaders mark it, using a recognised set of symbols. They usually mark the printed proofs, but sometimes this task may be done on screen, using specialised software.

Proof changes can be costly, so proofreaders must use their judgement to decide which changes are essential.

They may liaise with the author, copy editor or printer to resolve queries. Having proofread the document, they supply a set of marked-up proofs to the publisher. This incorporates all the changes from the authors or other contributors.

Many proofreaders combine the work with other roles, such as copy-editing or project management.

People starting out in proofreading may earn around £15,000 a year.

 

Hours and environment

Most proofreaders are self-employed and work from home. The flow of work is likely to be uneven, so hours may be irregular. Part-time work is common in this field.

Proofreaders employed by a publisher work standard office hours, Monday to Friday.

They may need to work longer hours when a project is at a critical stage.

Proofreaders may travel to meet clients, so a driving licence can be useful.

 

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

Proofreaders negotiate their own fees. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) suggests a minimum hourly rate of £17.50.

  • Newly-qualified proofreaders may earn around £15,000 a year.
  • With experience, earnings may rise to around £20,000.
  • Proofreaders with a strong client base and specialist skills may earn up to £25,000.

 

Skills and personal qualities

Proofreaders must have:

  • a scrupulous approach to detailed work
  • a high level of skill in written English, including spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • the motivation to work on their own, and to meet deadlines
  • an ability to stay focused throughout an entire document, which may be long and technical
  • good judgement, to gauge which changes are necessary
  • familiarity with the production process for books and documents
  • tact
  • an ability to work within the style of the author and publisher, rather than impose their own ideas
  • good interpersonal skills, to build working relationships and contacts with potential clients
  • confidence with computers.

 

Interests

It helps to have an interest in:

  • the publishing industry
  • a specialist subject of some kind - eg science, law or foreign languages.

 

Getting in

Publishers, graphic design houses and printers employ proofreaders on a full-time and freelance basis. Other potential employers or clients include any organisations that produce a lot of published materials, from retail chains to government bodies.

The publishing industry is concentrated in urban areas, especially London and the South East, and Edinburgh. However, freelance proofreaders are often able to work at a distance from their clients.

New opportunities are limited. Entrants must compete with experienced and established proofreaders. Most proofreaders build up work through contacts in the industry, or expert knowledge of a 'niche' subject.

The number of new publications and websites is increasing, which means greater opportunities. There is also a growing market in corporate publishing. At the same time, however, some publishers are trying to reduce costs by cutting out the proofreading step, or by sending the work abroad.

Vacancies appear in the national press, especially The Guardian (Mondays), or trade press, eg The Bookseller and Publishing News. The Society of Young Publishers (SYP), a voluntary organisation open to anyone in publishing or hoping to be, lists vacancies on its website.

Entry for young people

There are no set entry requirements. Many employers expect A levels/H grades in English and other subjects. However, experience in proofreading is at least as important as qualifications.

Many proofreaders start out in a junior role in the publishing industry. Others take up proofreading after working in journalism or other fields.

Some proofreaders have a degree. This may be in English, or in a subject that relates to their specialist field for proofreading. For example, an economics graduate might proofread financial reports; a degree in law might help to secure a role in proofreading legal texts.

Entry for adults

Adult entry is common, however, it is important to be able to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the publication process, or a specialist knowledge.

 

Training

Proofreaders in employment train on the job. Freelance proofreaders need to fund their own training.

The SfEP runs courses on different aspects of proofreading and copy-editing, as well as on working freelance. The Publishing Training Centre (PTC) also offers a range of courses on proofreading and related subjects, including distance learning and online courses.

Those who have passed the training recommended by the SfEP, as well as a rigorous exam, can become accredited by the Society. The SfEP runs conferences, networking events and a mentoring scheme for members. It also works to help new proofreaders find work, and runs a continuous development programme. Clients looking for a proofreader can consult the SfEP directory.

 

Getting on

Proofreaders advance by earning a reputation in the industry. They may move on to specialise in a particular field of publishing.

It is important for proofreaders to stay in touch with new developments in the publishing industry and in their special field of interest.

They may train in related skills, eg copy-editing or production. Within publishing companies, they may move into other departments, such as writing or account management.

 

Further information

 

Further reading

  • Book and Journal Publishing - PTC
  • Inside Book Publishing - Routledge
  • Working in English - VT Lifeskills

 

Magazines/journals

  • Book People
  • The Bookseller
  • InPrint - SYP
  • Publishing News

 

This article was posted by

*

Creativepool

UK

United Kingdom

406

Comments

0 comments

ad:
ad: Date a Creative
ad:
ad: post your news with us