What is a Proofread?

Proofreading is the final step before publication.

I don’t generally proofread projects I’ve copy edited. The reason is “fresh eyes.” A proofread is the final step before publication and copy editing – fixing the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and flow of the story’s sentences for tone and clarity – should already have been done.

You may say that you had beta readers and didn’t need a copy edit, just a proofread. To be clear, beta readers should be reading for story holes, character inconsistencies, big picture problems in the plot or situations. A copy editor considers word choice, sentence construction for dialects, tone, pacing, and following grammar rules to improve readability.

A proofreader is a final check on all these previous steps. Editors are only human, and after hours and days of working and reworking on a manuscript, they can miss a host of “small” errors:

  • transposed letters (“teh” not “the”)
  • missing open or close quotations
  • missing periods or commas
  • DOuble capitals
  • soft returns that mess up a line break when full justification is applied
  • hard returns that break a line at the wrong width
  • widows/orphans, a single word or line dangling at the top of a page
  • incorrect homophones that tired, familiar eyes just passed over

A proofreader works from a style guide, because it’s their responsibility to also check the fonts, italics, bolds, alignments that should be used for different types of thoughts, text messages, even chapter headings and first lines of chapters and/or scenes.

A proofreader also should work from a PDF of the layout planned for paper printing. Those widows/orphans and weird line breaks like to show up during conversion.