Types of Editing: Proofreading

ProofreadingIn my last two posts, I talked about content editing and copy editing. Today, I’ll explain what happens in the final stage of editing: proofreading.

In most cases, this stage of editing comes after the designer has placed the work into a design file and completed the typesetting and formatting. If the text is being published on a blog or forum—like this post—proofreading can be done in ‘Preview’ mode, prior to posting. For print publications, the proofreader should print out a proof copy.

Once text is in a design file, it becomes a lot harder to make substantial changes. Major changes at this stage could alter the page count or require a rework of the layout to make it fit, which can be time-consuming. Therefore, things that ought to have been addressed during content editing should not be addressed during proofreading. So what does an editor do when proofreading?

The aim of proofreading is to ensure legibility, resolve page layout issues, and check that design choices are appropriate. Proofreading also checks that the instructions in a design brief have been followed. For example, the brief might instruct that new paragraphs are to be shown by leaving a blank line, text is to be aligned left and justified, and for page numbers to appear in the top left header of each page in hot pink 8pt Century Gothic font. Proofreading checks that all of these instructions have been followed and consistently adhered to.

Another important part of proofreading is cross-checking the proof with the copy edited version to ensure formatting—such as bold and italics—hasn’t been lost and to make sure no text has gone missing. This is also the absolute last chance to catch sneaky typos that might have been overlooked during copy editing.

Attention to detail is vital because this is the final stage of editing before the text is published or printed. The author is usually not involved in this stage of editing. An editor will usually send a list of proofreading notes to the designer (or person in charge of the design file) to apply. Proofreading should happen several times over for best results.

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