Proofreaders check publications for errors before they go to print or appear online. They mark where errors have been made, for example, in spelling, grammar and punctuation. They usually work alone, and often from home.
As a Proofreader, you will work on a wide range of materials, including books, magazines, brochures, reports, websites and academic journals.
Traditionally, you would have received an Author's work after it has been copy-edited and typeset. You'll then check the page proofs against the edited version word by word, making sure the typesetter has followed the copy-editor's marks correctly.
However, proofreading is now often 'blind', meaning that you don't have an edited version to compare against.
Often you will use special, standard marks in the text and page margins to show what and where the errors are and how they should be corrected. You might use red ink to show the typesetter's mistakes and blue ink for any errors missed (or made) by the Copy-Editor.
For on-screen work you might use a 'track changes' feature to mark the text.
Your tasks include:
- marking spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes
- checking that page numbers are in sequence
- ensuring consistency by following a house style guide
- making sure captions for illustrations (diagrams, maps and photos) match what's being shown in the illustration
You don't check facts, suggest rewriting, comment on page layout or put together indexes - they are not part of your role as a Proofreader.
Usually you will work on your own, although you might contact the Copy-Editor and/or Author to discuss queries. You'll use print and online dictionaries and other reference books to check details you are unsure about.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Proofreader, you'll need:
- sound knowledge of spelling, grammar and punctuation
- a sharp eye for detail and the ability to concentrate for long periods of time
- to work neatly and accurately
- organisational and time-management skills to meet deadlines
- to enjoy working on your own
- good communication skills when dealing with clients and Authors
- IT skills
- knowledge of the processes involved in producing books, other printed materials and websites
Most Proofreaders are self-employed, so you'll usually need business and marketing skills.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £23,500 - £24,500
- With experience: £25,500 - £30,500
- Senior Proofreaders earn £32,500
Freelancers may experience periods without work.
Hours of work
Hours of work vary depending on workload, but you might need to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.
Where could I work?
Employers are publishing companies (either large organisations that cover a wide range of publications, or small, specialist firms that deal with just one or two publishing areas), graphic design agencies, printers, government bodies and any organisation that publishes written material, whether print or online.
Although the traditional publishing industry is concentrated in London, the South East, Oxford and Cambridge, proofreaders can base themselves anywhere in the UK.
Most Proofreaders are self-employed freelancers, usually working from home.
Where are vacancies advertised?
The SfEP publishes vacancies in 'SfEP Announce', an email news bulletin for its members. Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, in trade magazines such as The Bookseller (including its online version), and on editorial and general job boards.
You can find advice on attracting freelance work on the SfEP website.
Freelance proofreaders often advertise on searchable online directories. For example, 'ordinary' and 'advanced' members of the SfEP can take an entry in its 'Directory of Editorial Services'.
It can also be a good idea to have your own website that advertises your services and includes testimonials from clients you've worked with.
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
Entry Routes and Training
There are no set entry routes into this career.
Some Proofreaders have a degree, for example, in English or in a subject that relates to their specialist field for proofreading, such as science publishing.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
The SfEP offers a mentoring scheme, where students who have completed the appropriate proofreading courses can gain further proofreading skills by having access to an experienced mentor.
To become an 'ordinary' member of the SfEP, you must be able to demonstrate evidence of your competence through training. To become an 'advanced' member, you must have a high degree of competence and substantial proofreading experience. People who pass the SfEP's Accreditation test in proofreading automatically become advanced members.
Some Proofreaders move into sub-editing/copy-editing roles. It's also possible for experienced Proofreaders to provide training in proofreading.
There are no minimum educational requirements for entry to this work, although you need excellent knowledge of English grammar, punctuation and spelling.
You might be at an advantage if you have a degree or experience in a particular field because specialist knowledge is useful for some publications.
The Publishing Training Centre at Book House (PTC), Editorial Training (EditTrain) and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), offer courses in proofreading. The PTC and EditTrain run distance learning courses.
Some funding for training is available from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).
Publishing Training Centre (PTC)
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Tel: 020 78433700
Professional Publishers Association (PPA)
Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)
London School of Publishing (LSP)
Women In Publishing (WiP)
Society of Young Publishers (SYP)
Inside Book Publishing
Author: Giles Clark Publisher: Routledge