The fifth and final article in our How To Be A Better Writer series delves into the dark art of proofreading. Not only do we explain the difference between proofreading and editing, but we also provide tips to help you proofread your own work.
First things first, proofreading and editing are not the same things.
The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) defines proofreading as:
“The quality check and tidy-up.”
It’s the last step before you press ‘send’ or print a document. It’s the final sweep for mistakes and inconsistencies.
Editing (including sub-editing and copyediting) allows for more widespread, wholesale changes.
In addition, editing tends to happen in a text document before the words are uploaded to a website or put into layout. Proofreading, on the other hand, happens on paper with the document in its final format. A professional proofreader will mark the page with a range of red symbols, indicating where changes are required.
If you’re writing an email or a text message, you won’t need the services of a professional proofreader but it’s still important to check your message.
These six simple steps may come in handy:
A fresh pair of eyes can help you pick up on mistakes and issues with tone. You may sound snarky without meaning to. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to point out any errors.
It might seem like a lot of effort, given that you edited the document in step four. However, there may be a spelling mistake that you haven’t noticed – or a word you’ve misused without realising. Proofreading eliminates these errors.