Proofreading is the reading of a galley proof
Galley proof
In printing and publishing, proofs are the preliminary versions of publications meant for review by authors, editors, and proofreaders, often with extra wide margins. Galley proofs may be uncut and unbound, or in some cases electronic...

 or computer monitor to detect and correct production-errors of text
Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols . It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.Writing most likely...

 or art
Graphic arts
A type of fine art, graphic art covers a broad range of art forms. Graphic art is typically two-dimensional and includes calligraphy, photography, drawing, painting, printmaking, lithography, typography, serigraphy , and bindery. Graphic art also consists of drawn plans and layouts for interior...

. Proofreaders are expected to be consistently accurate by default because they occupy the last stage of typographic production before publication
To publish is to make content available to the public. While specific use of the term may vary among countries, it is usually applied to text, images, or other audio-visual content on any medium, including paper or electronic publishing forms such as websites, e-books, Compact Discs and MP3s...


Traditional method

A proof is a typeset
Typesetting is the composition of text by means of types.Typesetting requires the prior process of designing a font and storing it in some manner...

 version of copy
Hard copy
In information handling, a hard copy is a permanent reproduction, or copy, in the form of a physical object, of any media suitable for direct use by a person , of displayed or transmitted data...

 or a manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

Page (paper)
A page is one side of a leaf of paper. It can be used as a measurement of documenting or recording quantity .-The page in typography:...

. They often contain typos introduced through both human error and bugs
Software bug
A software bug is the common term used to describe an error, flaw, mistake, failure, or fault in a computer program or system that produces an incorrect or unexpected result, or causes it to behave in unintended ways. Most bugs arise from mistakes and errors made by people in either a program's...

 in programming code
Computer programming
Computer programming is the process of designing, writing, testing, debugging, and maintaining the source code of computer programs. This source code is written in one or more programming languages. The purpose of programming is to create a program that performs specific operations or exhibits a...

. Traditionally, a proofreader looks at an increment of text on the copy and then compares it to the corresponding typeset increment, and then marks any errors (sometimes called line edits) using standard proofreaders' marks. Thus, unlike copy editing
Copy editing
Copy editing is the work that an editor does to improve the formatting, style, and accuracy of text. Unlike general editing, copy editing might not involve changing the substance of the text. Copy refers to written or typewritten text for typesetting, printing, or publication...

, proofreading's defining procedure is to work directly with two sets of information at the same time. Proofs are then returned to the typesetter
Word processor
A word processor is a computer application used for the production of any sort of printable material....

 or graphic artist for correction. Correction-cycle proofs will typically have one descriptive term, such as bounce, bump, or revise unique to the department or organization and used for clarity to the strict exclusion of any other. It is a common practice for all such corrections, no matter how slight, to be sent again to a proofreader to be checked and initialed, establishing the principle of consistent accuracy for proofreaders.

Alternative methods

Copy holding or copy reading employs two readers per proof. The first reads the text aloud literally as it appears, usually at a comparatively fast but uniform rate of speed. The second reader follows along and marks any pertinent differences between what is read and what was typeset. This method is appropriate for large quantities of boilerplate text where it is assumed that the number of errors will be comparatively small.

Experienced copy holders employ various codes and verbal short-cuts that accompany their reading. The spoken word digits, for example, means that the numbers about to be read aren't words spelled out; and in a hole can mean that the upcoming segment of text is within parenthesis. Bang means an exclamation point. A thump made with a finger on the table represents the initial cap, comma
A comma is a type of punctuation mark . The word comes from the Greek komma , which means something cut off or a short clause.Comma may also refer to:* Comma , a type of interval in music theory...

, period
Full stop
A full stop is the punctuation mark commonly placed at the end of sentences. In American English, the term used for this punctuation is period. In the 21st century, it is often also called a dot by young people...

, or similar obvious attribute being read simultaneously. Thus the line of text: (He said the address was 1234 Central Blvd., and to hurry!) would be read aloud as: in a hole [thump] he said the address was digits 1 2 3 4 [thump] central [thump] buluhvuhd [thump] comma and to hurry bang
Exclamation mark
The exclamation mark, exclamation point, or bang, or "dembanger" is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume , and often marks the end of a sentence. Example: “Watch out!” The character is encoded in Unicode at...

. Mutual understanding is the only guiding principle, so codes evolve as opportunity permits. In the above example, two thumps after buluhvuhd might be acceptable to proofreaders familiar with the text.

Double reading. A single proofreader checks a proof in the traditional manner, but then passes it on to a second reader who repeats the process. Both initial the proof. Note that with both copy holding and double reading, responsibility for a given proof is necessarily shared by two individuals.

Scanning, used to check a proof without reading it word for word, has become common with computerization of typesetting and the popularization of word processing
Word processor
A word processor is a computer application used for the production of any sort of printable material....

. Many publishers have their own proprietary typesetting systems, while their customers use commercial programs such as Word
Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word is a word processor designed by Microsoft. It was first released in 1983 under the name Multi-Tool Word for Xenix systems. Subsequent versions were later written for several other platforms including IBM PCs running DOS , the Apple Macintosh , the AT&T Unix PC , Atari ST , SCO UNIX,...

. Before the data in a Word file can be published, it must be converted into a format used by the publisher. The end product is usually called a conversion. If a customer has already proofread the contents of a file before submitting it to a publisher, there will be no reason for another proofreader to re-read it from copy (although this additional service may be requested and paid for). Instead, the publisher is held responsible only for formatting errors, such as typeface, page width, and alignment of columns
Column (typography)
In typography, a column is one or more vertical blocks of content positioned on a page, separated by gutters and/or rules. Columns are most commonly used to break up large bodies of text that cannot fit in a single block of text on a page. Additionally, columns are used to improve page composition...

 in tables
Table (database)
In relational databases and flat file databases, a table is a set of data elements that is organized using a model of vertical columns and horizontal rows. A table has a specified number of columns, but can have any number of rows...

; and production errors such as text inadvertently deleted. To simplify matters further, a given conversion will usually be assigned a specific template
Template (file format)
The term document template when used in the context of file format refers to a common feature of many software applications that define a unique non-executable file format intended specifically for that particular application....

. Given typesetters of sufficient skill, experienced proofreaders familiar with their typesetters' work can accurately scan their pages without reading the text for errors that neither they nor their typesetters are responsible for.

Style guides and checklists

Before it is typeset, copy is often marked up by an editor or customer with various instructions as to typefaces, art, and layout. Often these individuals will consult a style guide
Style guide
A style guide or style manual is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization or field...

 of varying degrees of complexity and completeness. Such guides are usually produced in-house by the staff or supplied by the customer, and should be distinguished from professional references such as The Chicago Manual of Style
The Chicago Manual of Style
The Chicago Manual of Style is a style guide for American English published since 1906 by the University of Chicago Press. Its 16 editions have prescribed writing and citation styles widely used in publishing...

, the AP Stylebook
AP Stylebook
The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, usually called the AP Stylebook, is a style and usage guide used by newspapers and in the news industry in the United States...

, The Elements of Style
The Elements of Style
The Elements of Style , also known as Strunk & White, by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, is a prescriptive American English writing style guide comprising eight "elementary rules of usage", ten "elementary principles of composition", "a few matters of form", a list of forty-nine "words and...

, or Gregg Reference Manual
The Gregg Reference Manual
The Gregg Reference Manual: A Manual of Style, Grammar, Usage, and Formatting is a guide to English grammar and style, written by William A. Sabin and published by McGraw-Hill. The book is named after John Robert Gregg. The eleventh edition was published in 2010.The book was first published in...

. When appropriate, proofreaders may mark errors in accordance with their house guide instead of the copy when the two conflict.

Checklists are commonly employed in proofrooms where there is sufficient uniformity of product to distill some or all of its components to a list format. They may also act as a training tool for new hires.


The educational-level of proofreaders in general is on par with that of their coworkers. Typesetters, graphic artists, and word processors are rarely required to have a college degree, and a perusal of online job-listings for proofreaders will show that although some specify a degree for proofreaders, as many do not. Those same listings will also show a tendency for degree-only positions to be in firms
A company is a form of business organization. It is an association or collection of individual real persons and/or other companies, who each provide some form of capital. This group has a common purpose or focus and an aim of gaining profits. This collection, group or association of persons can be...

 in commercial
While business refers to the value-creating activities of an organization for profit, commerce means the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural, and technological systems that are in operation in any...

 fields such as retail
Retail consists of the sale of physical goods or merchandise from a fixed location, such as a department store, boutique or kiosk, or by mail, in small or individual lots for direct consumption by the purchaser. Retailing may include subordinated services, such as delivery. Purchasers may be...

, medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

, or insurance
In law and economics, insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. Insurance is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for payment. An insurer is a company selling the...

, where the data to be read is internal documentation not intended for public consumption per se. Such listings, specifying a single proofreader to fill a single position, are more likely to require a degree as a way of reducing the candidate-pool, but also because the degree is perceived as a requirement for any potentially promotable white collar
White-collar worker
The term white-collar worker refers to a person who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work, in contrast with a blue-collar worker, whose job requires manual labor...

 applicant. Experience is discounted at the outset in preference to a credential, indicating a relatively low starting wage
A wage is a compensation, usually financial, received by workers in exchange for their labor.Compensation in terms of wages is given to workers and compensation in terms of salary is given to employees...

 appropriate for younger applicants. In these kinds of multitasking
Human multitasking
Human multitasking is the best performance by an individual of appearing to handle more than one task at the same time. The term is derived from computer multitasking. An example of multitasking is taking phone calls while typing an email...

Desktop publishing
Desktop publishing is the creation of documents using page layout software on a personal computer.The term has been used for publishing at all levels, from small-circulation documents such as local newsletters to books, magazines and newspapers...

 environments, Human Resources
Human resources
Human resources is a term used to describe the individuals who make up the workforce of an organization, although it is also applied in labor economics to, for example, business sectors or even whole nations...

 may even classify proofreading as a clerical skill generic to literacy itself. Where this is the case, it isn't unusual for proofreaders to find themselves guaranteeing the accuracy of higher-paid coworkers.

By contrast, printers
Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

, publishers, advertising agencies and law firms tend not to specifically require a degree. In these professionally demanding single-tasking environments, the educational divide surrounds the production department instead of the company itself. Promotion is rare for these proofreaders because they tend to be valued more for their present skill-set than for any potential leadership ability. They are often supervised by a typesetter also without a degree, or an administrative manager with little or no production experience who delegates day-to-day responsibilities to a typesetter. It follows that such listings tend to stress experience, offer commensurately higher rates of pay, and include mention of a proofreading test.

Proofreader testing

Applicants. Practical job-training for proofreaders has declined along with its status as a craft, although many commercial and college-level proofreading courses of varying quality can be found online. There are also available numerous books that instruct the basics to their readers. Such tools of self-preparation have by and large replaced formal workplace-instruction.

Proofreader applicants are tested primarily on their spelling, speed, and skill in finding errors in sample text. Towards that end, they may be given a list of ten or twenty classically difficult words and a proofreading test, both tightly timed. The proofreading test will often have a maximum number of errors per quantity of text and a minimum amount of time to find them. The goal of this approach is to identify those with the best skill-set.

A contrasting approach to testing is to identify and reward persistence more than an arbitrarily high level of expertise. For the spelling portion of the test, that can be accomplished by providing a dictionary; lengthening the word-list conspicuously; and making clear that the test is not timed. For the proofreading portion a suitable language-usage reference book (e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style) can be provided. (Note that knowing where to find needed information in such specialized books is itself an effective component of the test.) Removing the pressure of what is essentially an ASAP deadline will identify those applicants with marginally greater reservoirs of persistence, stamina, and commitment. At the same time, by mooting the need for applicants to make use of a memorized list of difficult words and a studied knowledge of the more common grammatical traps (affect, effect, lay, lie), applicants learn that their success depends primarily on a quality at least theoretically available to anyone at any time without preparation.

Formal employee-testing is usually planned and announced well in advance, and may have titles, such as Levels Testing, Skills Evaluation, etc. They are found in corporate or governmental environments with a large enough HR staff to devote to preparing and administering the tests.

Informal employee-testing takes place whenever a manager feels the need to take a random sampling of a proofreader's work by double-reading selected pages. Usually this is done without warning, and sometimes it will be done secretly. It can be highly effective, and there will certainly be times when such re-reading is justified, but care must be taken.

There are two basic approaches. The first is to re-read a proof within its deadline and in the department itself. Thus the manager will read from the same copy that the first reader saw, and be aware of any volume and deadline pressures the first reader was under, and can directly observe the individual in real time. This approach can also be followed as a matter of routine. The goal then is not to confirm a specific suspicion of poor job-performance by a particular reader, but rather to confirm a general assumption that the proofreading staff needs ongoing monitoring.

The second approach to informal testing is to wait for some days or weeks and then, as time allows, randomly select proofs to re-read while outside the department. Such proofs may or may not be accompanied by the copy pages that the proofreader saw. Here the re-reader is examining the proof from the perspective of typographical and formatting accuracy alone, ignoring how many other pages the first reader had read that day, and had yet to read, and how many pages were successfully read and how many deadlines were met under a given day's specific conditions.

Economics of proofreading

Proofreading cannot be fully cost-effective where volume or unpredictable work flow prevents proofreaders from managing their own time. Examples would be thermographic
Thermographic printing
Thermographic printing refers to two types of printing, both of which rely on heat to create the letters or images on a sheet of paper.The simplest type is where the paper has been coated with a material that changes colour on heating. This is called thermal printing and was used in older model...

 trade printers of business cards, network hubs, and newspapers. The problem in each of these environments is that jobs can’t be put aside to be re-read as needed. In the first and third example, volume and deadlines dictate that all jobs be finished as soon as possible; in the second, jobs presently on-site at the hub are hurried, regardless of their formal deadline, in favor of possible future work that may arrive unpredictably. Where proofs can programmatically be read only once, quality will never be superior on average. Instead, it will randomly but persistently fall below expectations. Even the best and most experienced readers will not be able to consistently push the margin of accuracy far enough to justify premium pay.

Production technology can also moot the need to pay a premium for proofreading. In the example of thermographic business-card printing, even when there are no reprints, there is considerable wastage of paper and ink generated in preparing each of the press-runs, which are separated by color
Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

. When (as often happens) there is unused space available on the plate, there is no increase in production cost for reprints that use that space. Only when reprints are so numerous that they push production-staff into significant overtime
Overtime is the amount of time someone works beyond normal working hours. Normal hours may be determined in several ways:*by custom ,*by practices of a given trade or profession,*by legislation,...

 would they increase costs. But significant overtime is usually the result of a high volume in new orders using up the eight-hour day. In such industries proofreading need only – and can only – make a marginal difference to be cost-effective. As for the customers, many will never return even when their jobs are perfect, and enough of those who do need a reprint will find the retailer’s cost-saving price to be satisfactory enough to tolerate a late delivery.

Only where workload volume doesn’t compress all deadlines to ASAP and the workflow is reasonably predictable can proofreading be worth a premium wage
A wage is a compensation, usually financial, received by workers in exchange for their labor.Compensation in terms of wages is given to workers and compensation in terms of salary is given to employees...

. Inflexible deadlines mandate a delivery time, but in doing so they necessarily don’t mandate delivery before that time. If deadlines are consistently maintained instead of arbitrarily moved up, proofreaders can manage their own time by putting proofs aside at their own discretion for re-reading later. Whether the interval is a few seconds or overnight, it enables proofs to be viewed as both familiar and new. Where this procedure is followed, managers can expect consistently superior performance. However, re-reading focuses responsibility instead of dividing it (as double-reading and copy holding, both described above, do) and obviously requires extra effort from proofreaders and a measure of independence from management. Instead of managers controlling deadlines, deadlines control managers, and leeway is passed to the proofreaders as well as commensurate pay.

Proofreading vs. copy editing

The misperception that proofreading is related to editing is a common one, and the term proofreading is sometimes used to refer to copy editing, and vice versa. Although there is necessarily some overlap, particularly regarding queries (see below), proofreaders typically lack any real editorial or managerial authority, having only the option of querying items for typesetters, editors, or authors to consider. To clarify matters at the outset, some want-ads come with a notice that the job advertised is not a writing or editing position and will not become one. The lesson is that creativity and critical thinking by their very nature conflict with the strict copy-following discipline that commercial
While business refers to the value-creating activities of an organization for profit, commerce means the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural, and technological systems that are in operation in any...

 and governmental
United States Government Printing Office
The United States Government Printing Office is an agency of the legislative branch of the United States federal government. The office prints documents produced by and for the federal government, including the Supreme Court, the Congress, the Executive Office of the President, executive...

 proofreading requires, that proofreading and editing are fundamentally separate responsibilities.

Self proofreading/copy editing

Primary examples include job seekers' own resume
A résumé is a document used by individuals to present their background and skillsets. Résumés can be used for a variety of reasons but most often to secure new employment. A typical résumé contains a summary of relevant job experience and education...

s and student term-papers. Proofreading this kind of material presents a special challenge, first because the proofreader/editor is usually the author; second because such authors are usually unaware of the inevitability of errors and the effort required to find them; and third, as finding any final errors often occurs just when stress levels are highest and time shortest, readers' minds resist identifying them as errors. Under these conditions, proofreaders will see only what they want to see.

There are numerous websites offering detailed advice on how authors should check their own material. The context is that of a one-time effort, neither paid nor deadline-driven. Some tips may not be appropriate for everyone, e.g., read upside down to "focus on typology
Typology is the study of types. More specifically, it may refer to:*Typology , division of culture by races*Typology , classification of things according to their characteristics...

", read backward, chew gum, listen to music, and don't use fluorescent lighting.

In fiction

Examples of proofreaders in fiction include The History of the Siege of Lisbon
The History of the Siege of Lisbon
The History of the Siege of Lisbon is a novel by Portuguese author José Saramago, first published in 1989.It tells the story of a proofreader and the story of the Siege of Lisbon as it both is and is not told in the book he is charged with correcting...

(Historia do Cerco de Lisboa), a 1989 novel by Nobel laureate Jose Saramago
José Saramago
José de Sousa Saramago, GColSE was a Nobel-laureate Portuguese novelist, poet, playwright and journalist. His works, some of which can be seen as allegories, commonly present subversive perspectives on historic events, emphasizing the human factor. Harold Bloom has described Saramago as "a...

, and the short story "Proofs" in George Steiner
George Steiner
Francis George Steiner, FBA , is an influential European-born American literary critic, essayist, philosopher, novelist, translator, and educator. He has written extensively about the relationship between language, literature and society, and the impact of the Holocaust...

's Proofs and Three Parables (1992). Under the headline "Orthographical" in James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

's novel Ulysses
Ulysses (novel)
Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature,...

, Leopold Bloom
Leopold Bloom
Leopold Bloom is the fictional protagonist and hero of James Joyce's Ulysses. His peregrinations and encounters in Dublin on 16 June 1904 mirror, on a more mundane and intimate scale, those of Ulysses/Odysseus in The Odyssey....

, watching the typesetter foreman Mr. Nannetti read over a "limp galleypage", thinks "Proof fever".

See also

  • American and British English spelling differences
    American and British English spelling differences
    One of the ways in which American English and British English differ is in spelling.-Historical origins:In the early 18th century, English spelling was not standardized. Differences became noticeable after the publishing of influential dictionaries...

  • Copy editing
    Copy editing
    Copy editing is the work that an editor does to improve the formatting, style, and accuracy of text. Unlike general editing, copy editing might not involve changing the substance of the text. Copy refers to written or typewritten text for typesetting, printing, or publication...

  • Distributed Proofreaders
    Distributed Proofreaders
    Distributed Proofreaders is a web-based project that supports the development of e-texts for Project Gutenberg by allowing many people to work together in proofreading drafts of e-texts for errors.- History :...

    ETAOIN SHRDLU is a nonsense phrase that sometimes appeared in print in the days of "hot type" publishing because of a custom of Linotype machine operators. It appeared frequently enough that it became part of the lore of newspapers...

  • Fact checker
    Fact checker
    A fact checker is the person who checks factual assertions in non-fictional text, usually intended for publication in a periodical, to determine their veracity and correctness...

  • Galley proof
    Galley proof
    In printing and publishing, proofs are the preliminary versions of publications meant for review by authors, editors, and proofreaders, often with extra wide margins. Galley proofs may be uncut and unbound, or in some cases electronic...

  • ISO 5776
    ISO 5776
    ISO 5776, published by the International Organization for Standardization , is a document that specifies symbols for proofreading such as of manuscripts, typescripts and printer's proofs. The total number of symbols specified is 16, each in English, French and Russian.The standard is partially...

  • Obelism
    Obelism is the practice of annotating manuscripts with marks set in the margins. Modern obelisms are used by editors when blue-penciling a manuscript or typescript...

  • Printing press check
    Printing press check
    The printing press check is a step in the printing process. It takes place after a printing press is set up but before the print run is underway....

  • River (typography)
    River (typography)
    In typography, rivers, or rivers of white, are gaps appearing to run down a paragraph of text, due to a coincidental alignment of spaces. They can occur regardless of the spacing settings, but are most noticeable with wide inter-word spaces caused by full text justification or monospaced...

  • Society for Editors and Proofreaders
    Society for Editors and Proofreaders
    The Society for Editors and Proofreaders was formed in 1988. It has 1,500 members, most of them in the UK, and its headquarters are in London.The SfEP is a professional association for editors and proofreaders...

     (in the UK)
  • Style guide
    Style guide
    A style guide or style manual is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization or field...

  • Typographical personification
    Typographical personification
    Typographical personifications are usually better known by a myriad of colorful and fanciful names, such as Typo fairies, Typo demons, and the like. They are fictional beings commonly used as an explanation for typos...

  • Typographical syntax
    Typographical syntax
    Typographical syntax, also known as orthotypography, is the aspect of typography that defines the meaning and rightful usage of typographic signs, notably punctuation marks, and elements of layout such as flush margins and indentation....

  • Writing circle
    Writing circle
    A writing circle is a group of like-minded writers needing support for their work, either through writing peer critiques, workshops or classes, or just encouragement...


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.