I’ve been proofreading and copy-editing professionally since 2009 and almost all of my work has been for non-publishers such as academics, researchers, postgraduates and businesses or other organisations. Although I send details to clients of what they can expect from my proofreading and copy-editing services, most of my clients have been happy for me to do whatever work I think is needed, and I’ve enjoyed improving the clarity, fluency and consistency of a text where that’s what’s required. So far, so good.
In 2012 I attended the classroom-based ‘Introduction to copy-editing’ course run by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. I realised that the only things my clients hadn’t wanted me to do when I was copy-editing for them were formatting, fact-checking (apart from pointing out incorrect facts that a lay reader would spot) and tagging.
Nothing to lose
I enjoy the type of work I do and wasn’t particularly looking to move in even a slightly new direction when I was contacted by my friend and colleague Kate Haigh (www.kateproof.co.uk). She asked if I would be interested in copy-editing for a publisher, as she hadn’t the time for this specific project. My first thought was, ‘Nope. I don’t feel completely comfortable with that.’ I then told myself not to be so ridiculous. I have a lot of happy clients and the core elements of this potential job would be doing things that I routinely do. There was no valid reason to think this job was beyond me. At worst it would challenge me a bit. So I found myself saying, ‘Oh, go on, then!’ and immediately feeling a positive sense of anticipation alongside a little apprehension.
A happy ending
The client sent the text and I completed the work. The only thing that was new to me was the formatting work that needed doing. This involved using a Word template and applying styles. Kate had described the two-step process and it proved to be very straightforward. Making sure I did this task properly took a little longer than I’d anticipated, and I also spent time making sure I understood the style guide, which involved raising some queries to clarify some of the instructions. I tried to see this as a positive learning opportunity, and I was happy to spend the extra time needed to make sure the job was done properly.
The lovely project manager made the job so much easier than it could have been. I did have some questions while working on the text, and she answered them promptly and fully and made it plain that she was around to answer more if necessary.
The publisher was happy with my work, I’ve already done another report for them and have another booked in and am now one of their registered suppliers. What’s not to like?
‘Write a proofreading blog’ has been on my to-do list for a long time. I’m finally dragging myself into the twenty-first century and starting it today. I’ve always managed to find an excuse not to start that first draft. I suddenly find jobs that apparently need doing immediately, such as filing emails or mopping the kitchen floor. However, given that I’ve been planning to update my website for ages and have finally got round to that (many thanks to the ever-patient and hugely knowledgeable Dave Stapenell of A9 Creative and SEO), I thought it was a good time to start. Well, I’m finally taking the plunge, so here goes…
I plan to write about the positive and negative sides of being a proofreader and about issues and solutions that I come across along the way. I’m also aiming to include posts that might interest people who have previously employed a proofreader or copy-editor or who are thinking of doing so.
I’m not aiming to be a prize-winning writer, but I’m aiming to write some insightful content that’s easy to read and fairly light-hearted. I might even throw in a few jokes along the way. I’ll try not to include any that are too corny, though, so fear not. The next post will be cobbled together – I mean carefully structured – very soon.
If you are a self-publishing author looking for someone to proofread your novel or short story, you can simply send me your final draft and I’ll let you know whether I can help you. If I can, I’ll give you a quote.
Proofreading fiction is of course a little different to proofreading other sorts of texts. As you probably already know, in the publishing industry proofreading is the last task in a long list of work that is done on a manuscript by editorial professionals. It is the final check on a text that has ideally been edited and then copy-edited.
I’m aware, however, that many self-publishers won’t have the resources to have gone through all the traditional stages. But I would expect that your manuscript has at least been copy-edited. If you are unsure of the differences between copy-editing and proofreading, have a look at the SfEP’s FAQs page, which you’ll find here: https://www.sfep.org.uk/about/faqs
Any quote I give you would include doing the following:
- Checking spelling, punctuation and grammar
- Checking that the syntax of sentences seems to work and that sentences make sense in context
- Checking that your writing is clear and reads fluently
- Checking that the style you have used is consistent, e.g. double or single quotation marks and that things like italics are used consistently
- Ensuring that any ambiguity or monotonous repetition is highlighted and possible solutions are suggested
- With regard to all of the above, being sensitive to your style of writing and bearing in mind that with fiction, standard grammar and/or punctuation rules can be broken if it seems to make sense in context to do so (I’d make a note about this to make you aware of your options)
- Noting formatting issues such as inconsistent paragraph spacing/margins (but not correcting those).
Ideally, as many people as possible should read your manuscript before you finalise it (it’s best to have a number of beta-readers read your work so that you can get useful feedback, but any friends or family who have analytical and crticital skills can provide useful feedback and spot errors too). I suggest you consider this even after my proofread, because you will be doing work on the text after that, and errors can creep in.
You can see testimonials from some of the clients who’ve been happy with my work. I have a love for fiction, a feel for language and an eye for detail, and would do my best to substantially improve the quality of your text. Please get in touch with me here, by email, via firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on (+44) (0)7503 845938.
I am a Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). This is a professional UK-based organisation for editors and proofreaders that promotes high editorial standards. I am proud to be a member of this organisation and abide by its code of practice:
The SfEP’s code of practice (CoP), Ensuring editorial excellence, is a really useful resource for editorial workers – editors, proofreaders and project managers, whether working freelance or in-house – and their clients and employers. Its purpose is to establish standards of best practice for SfEP members and help them maintain them and to encourage good professional relationships.
Good communication between client/employer and freelance/employee is essential. Clear briefing and the agreement of terms are vital if high standards are to be maintained by both parties, and unsurprisingly they’re emphasised by the CoP.
In addition, the CoP includes guidance on:
- the professional behaviour of both freelance/employee and client/employer
- standards for proofreading, editing and project management
- information on web editing, electronic file handling, email etiquette, confidentiality and computer security
Since the summer of 2016, I have been co-running the South Warwickshire and Coventry local SfEP group. You can download the code of practice here