What Skills Do I Need To Be a Proofreader?

Every job requires a set of skills, and proofreading is no exception.

Although this isn’t an extraordinary job that needs advanced skills, you will still need some basic skills to succeed.

Now, what are those skills, and what role do they play in the life of a proofreader? That is what we will see in this post.

Eight Essential Proofreading Skills

1. Grammar Understanding

Grammar is a system of rules that allows us to structure sentences. It includes nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.

When proofreading, you will encounter the most errors based on grammar. So, if you don’t have a good understanding of grammar, you will miss many of them.

That is why having a solid grasp of grammatical rules is essential when it comes to proofreading. So, learn the rules and improve your ability to think critically, and you’ll soon be able to follow the rules and conventions of language.

2. Punctuation Knowledge

Punctuation is the use of symbols like full stops, periods, commas, and question marks to separate written words into sentences and clauses.

Though it appears to be a few marks, removing it can literally change the meaning of sentences.

For example, “I love baking, my family, and my friends.” will look like “I love baking my family and my friends.” without punctuation.

As you can see, it completely altered the meaning of the sentence and rendered it amusing.

As a result, if you are unfamiliar with punctuation rules, you may come across such sentences. So make sure you know the rules.

3. Understanding of Spelling Rules

If something is written in your native language, you can easily spot spelling errors even when you’re not paying attention to them. I mean, it comes off naturally and you don’t need any special training to spot such errors.

So, why not put that ability to use while proofreading?

It’s fine if you’re already proofreading in your native language. But what about people who are not native speakers but want to correct such errors?

Well, in that case, they can improve their spelling knowledge by using spelling-based apps, dictionaries, websites, etc. It’s not too hard to overcome such problems when there are ample resources around.

4. Understanding of Style Guides

A style guide contains rules for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. It also has complex rules about layout, format, word usage, etc, which is crucial for proofreading and editing.

From spelling preferences to citation styles, good style guides tell you everything you need to know to edit a document.

Now, there are many different style guides available and they are used in various genres/fields. For example, the Chicago manual of style is used for proofreading academic texts.

If you’re targeting a specific niche or industry for proofreading, make sure you know the style guide associated with it.

Here are a few examples.

  • The Associated Press Stylebook (AP Style): Used for journalism, news writing, and magazine writing.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago Style): Used by publishers of books and journals. It is also used widely by academic and some trade publishers, as well as editors and authors.
  • MLA Handbook (MLA Style): Used in academic writing in the humanities or other liberal arts.
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA Style): Used for academic writing and research in the social and behavioral sciences.

5. A Sharp Eye For Detail

If you don’t have sharp eyes, you’ll miss small errors like commas when proofreading a piece of writing.

Assume you’re proofreading for a client and you miss these minor errors that the client notices. What impression does it make on you?

I’m sure you don’t want to be in such a situation. As a result, having meticulous eyes is essential for the proofreading job.

If you already have it, it’s fantastic. If you don’t, you can try a variety of games and puzzles designed to train your brain to focus on small details. You can also work on improving your concentration.

6. The Ability to Read Faster

While reading slowly can help you spot errors much more easily when proofreading, it also has a disadvantage. That is, you will not be able to complete your task faster, which can be problematic if there is a deadline.

In this case, being able to read faster is greatly helpful. You will not only complete your projects on time, but you will also make a positive impression on your clients.

Though it is advantageous to read quickly. It also has the drawback of omitting a few mistakes. Because of this, it is essential that you maintain a high level of focus while speed reading in order to avoid such issues.

7. Better Focus

As you will be reading and checking a lot of documents for errors, you must be able to focus for extended periods of time.

If you’re easily distracted by what’s going on around you or often put things off, proofreading might not be for you.

That’s why you should work on improving your focus so you won’t have to face such problems. Meditation, playing focus-based games, getting more sleep, and so on can all help you improve your focus.

8. Proficiency in Specific Programs

Earlier, proofreaders used to proofread on hard copies and communicate their suggestions using proofreading symbols.

But now that we live in the digital age, everything has changed because we have access to various word processing programs such as MS Word, Google Docs, and Adobe Acrobat. 

So knowing how to use them, particularly the features that will help you with proofreading, is essential for proofreaders.

Like in MS Word, Track Changes is a feature that allows you to make visible corrections and comments on a document.

In Google Docs, there is a suggestion mode that allows anyone who edits the document to suggest changes to the document owner.

Similarly, Adobe Acrobat includes annotation and markup tools for adding comments.

If you’re unfamiliar with such features and want to learn more, there are numerous YouTube videos available to help you.

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