Getting started as a proofreader and copy editor


A lot of our proofreading course students ask us how to get started. Proofreaders look for and highlight errors. That is their job.

Always start out believing that you will find an error on every line. In order to find these errors, you need to know exactly what an error is.

As far as a proofreader is concerned, an error is anything that contravenes:

  • The style guide.
  • The dictionary.
  • Standard punctuation rules (make sure that you understand the correct usage of each punctuation mark).
  • Standard grammar rules – as above.

Also, you always need to justify your reasoning for each error. Always explain why you think something is wrong, for example: it contravenes the style guide, and supply what you think should be in its place.

Then, the proofreader looks for potential errors. These are names of places and people, figures, maths, dates, hyperlinks etc that could be incorrect.

These are things that you are unable to prove correct by checking through the stages of the bullet points, above. You need to make a query about every one, asking whether it is correct.

Also, look at the meaning of words. Could a word or sentence construction be confusing to the reader? Could the meaning be ambiguous? You need to check every single word, figure and punctuation mark. I’m not kidding. Every one. Especially those words that seem correct in your mind. This is because what you learned at school may not be correct for this particular document.

So, look carefully, and question every single word, punctuation mark and sentence.

If you want to learn how to use proofreading symbols on paper manuscripts or on-screen symbols, you can enrol on our proofreading course at any time.

See our proofreading course