Proofreading involves reading texts to find and correct errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation and fact. Proofreaders must have excellent language and research skills, pay close attention to detail and work under deadline pressures. Many book publishers hire proofreaders on a part-time or freelance basis to work from home. According to payscale.com, proofreaders make between £6 and £19, depending on experience and expertise. (Proofreaders knowledgeable in technical subjects tend to receive higher wages.)
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Cover letter
- Computer with word processing, data storage, Internet and fax capability
- Dictionary, thesaurus and other reference materials
- Style books (Associated Press, Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Association (MLA) style books are most commonly used)
- List of common proofreading symbols
- Current edition of The Writer’s Market
Practice proofreading. Read the newspaper, magazines, your own written documents, etc. to look for errors. Use the common proofreading symbols to mark the copy. Make sure your changes are legible.
Take classes in editing and proofreading, available online (such as at editorialcourses.com) or at local college campuses.
Write for local newspapers, magazines and organisations, even on a volunteer basis. Offer to help produce their publications, especially writing, editing and proofreading. Save examples of your work and gather references to use in job applications.
Join writers groups and online forums. Offer to proofread members’ works. Save examples of your work to use in job applications.
Create a resume that focuses on your writing, editing and proofreading skills. Show that you are detail-oriented and that you consistently meet deadlines. Always proofread your resume and have someone else proofread it before you send it out. Potential employers will ignore a proofreading candidate if his resume is filled with errors.
Send your resume to local publishers (newspaper, book and directory). In your cover letter, emphasise your experience with proofreading, any special knowledge you may have (medical, legal, technical, etc.) State that you will contact them in a week to ensure they received your resume and to answer any questions they may have.
Use the current edition of the Writer’s Market to find publishers. Read the publisher’s listing, which includes contact information and data about the company’s products. Before sending a resume to a company, call to make sure the contact information is accurate.
Also contact online writing job boards such as online-writing-jobs.com, which post freelance writing, editing and proofreading jobs. Also approach freelance writing job boards and sites such as Editfast.com, eLance.com or get-a-freelancer.com. These boards post book-proofreading jobs and projects and it is up to each candidate to apply for those which interest them. Some of these are bidding sites, in which the lowest bid is usually the one that wins.
In a week, contact each company to which you applied. If you are connected to the editorial department, ask the receptionist if the editor is on deadline (the editor would then likely be too busy to take your call). If so, ask when the best time to call would be and call back at that time. If the phone conversation goes well, proceed with the standard job application process. If not, politely thank the person and try again elsewhere.
If you are interviewed for a proofreading job, you may be asked to produce samples of your proofreading work or take a proofreading test. Send the samples you gathered in Steps 3 and 4. If taking a test, it will likely be a timed test of your knowledge of proofreading skills, grammar, punctuation and accuracy. Work quickly and accurately.
Tips and warnings
- Contact real estate companies and associations and advertising companies, which may need proofreaders for their multi-list books.
- Many magazines and newspapers have book divisions, so it is wise to apply to many publishing houses.
- If responding to a job listing, tailor your resume and cover letter to the application, using similar wording, submitting the exact number and type of samples requested, etc. Because a proofreader is supposed to pay attention to detail, following the directions of the job posting is crucial.
- The competition for proofreading jobs is strong, especially as technological changes have led to the closing of many newspapers and other publishers.
- Proofreading is considered an entry-level publishing position with generally the lowest pay in the industry.
- While many people use the terms editing and proofreading interchangeably, there is a subtle difference: Proofreaders make sure text is properly formatted and correct for grammar, style etc. While editors also check these items, they also make assignments, make sure the text fits the publication’s style and mission and oversee design elements.
- While many proofreading courses and job boards promote proofreading as “reading books for a living,” proofreading can be demanding and time consuming. A proofreading can get so involved in checking the details as to lose focus on the subject of the text.
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