Guide to Proofreading | Editor World: Writing, Editing, & Proofreading

Guide to Proofreading

Proofreading is an essential step before submitting any text, whether it's a job application, academic paper, business document, or book manuscript. Though commonly lumped in with editing, proofreading is typically the final step in the writing process. The focus of proofreading is fixing minor errors, not making major changes to the content. 


If you're not an experienced proofreader, don't worry. You can learn how to proofread your own work competently by reading our helpful guide below! Otherwise, you can always hire an expert proofreader to review your work.


What Are the Five Major Steps of Proofreading?

For beginners to start proofreading, they'll first need to know all the basics, which can be summed up in just five major proofreading steps. You can do these steps separately or simultaneously, depending on your preference. These five steps make up the most common mistakes and errors you need to look out for when going over your work. These can include:


1. Spelling and word choice issues

When proofreading anything, it's important to keep an eye out for spelling mistakes. Spelling mistakes are very common, regardless of your spelling ability. When working quickly, it's easy to slip up and mistype a few words. 


This is also a good opportunity to look out for improper or ineffective word choices. Finally, remember to watch out for any misuse of prepositions, homophones, and definite and indefinite articles. 


2. Stylistic inconsistency

Stylistic inconsistency can refer to a few different things. For example, you might be capitalizing terms or titles inconsistently or switching between words and numerals for numbers. 


Switching between the writing conventions of two different countries might also be a concern. For example, if you're based in the UK and are writing content for a US client, make sure you're not using UK spelling for words like honor and favorite


3. Incorrect punctuation 

Punctuation refers to the symbols we use to separate and structure our sentences. If a piece of writing is filled with punctuation issues, it can confuse the reader and make the work appear unprofessional.


Not sure about what constitutes a punctuation error? Here are four punctuation errors to look for while proofreading:

  • Missing commas
  • Misused apostrophes
  • Misapplied hyphens
  • Confusion between en dashes and em dashes


4. Grammatical errors

Looking out for grammatical errors is a major aspect of proofreading. We've already noted a few common grammar issues, but here are seven other types of grammar errors to look for when proofreading a document:

  • Dangling modifiers
  • Incomplete comparisons
  • Improper title capitalization
  • Misuse of semicolons
  • Passive voice
  • Less vs. fewer
  • Who vs. Whose vs. Who's vs. Whom


5. Formatting problems

You may need to correct formatting issues, including incorrect formatting of citations and quotations, inconsistent paragraph indentation, and missing page numbers, headers, and footers. This is the proofreading step you should save for last, as making other edits afterward could create additional issues with regard to page numbers, spacing, etc. 


How Long Should Proofreading Take?

Proofreading can be a short or lengthy undertaking, depending on the experience of the proofreader, the length and complexity of the content, etc. For example, it takes about half an hour for a professional proofreader to proofread 1,000 words. That being the case, a beginner proofreader can expect to take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour or more to proofread as thoroughly as an expert editor.


That said, you shouldn't start proofreading the moment you've finished writing and editing. You may find it easier to spot errors when looking at your work with fresh eyes. For the best results, you should ideally wait at least a day or two before you start the last round of proofreading. However, if you're on a tight deadline, even waiting an hour or two can make a big difference. 


Bonus Proofreading Tips for Beginners

Here are a few bonus tips for proofreading newbies to help you get the best results!

  • Be wary of digital shortcuts: Digital spell-checkers like Grammarly can help you locate and correct errors. Still, you shouldn't rely on them entirely. These digital shortcuts regularly overlook spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. 
  • Make a note of recurring mistakes: Is there a word you always seem to misspell? Maybe you tend to use commas too frequently or not enough? Try to take note of these recurring mistakes so you can look out for them when proofreading your own work.
  • Consider hiring a professional proofreader: Professional editors and proofreaders are more reliable than digital spell-checkers. They're also fast, unbiased, experienced, and can catch the mistakes you might miss.


You Can Count on the Experts at Editor World

Editor World's fast, affordable, and high-quality proofreading and editing services are trusted by people across the US and beyond. Our talented team of experts offers same-day editing and proofreading services for a wide variety of content. They do academic editing, ESL editing, book editing, business editing, personal editing, and more. 


If you'd like to get in touch with our on-demand editing team, please don't hesitate to call +1 855-511-EDIT (3348), email, or fill out our online form. We look forward to hearing from you.