In this post, I’m going to introduce you to something I call “high-level proofreading.” High-level proofreading is the way I work, and how many other professional proofreaders work, as well. It’s quickly becoming the new standard for freelance proofreading.
Back when all content was printed (not that long ago, really) a proofreader’s job was to read the final draft and check there were no mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Proofreading is traditionally a very straightforward surface check of content. However, times have changed, and now proofreaders need to be able to go beyond the surface.
The Power Of Content
A big reason for that is the boom in content creation, and the role content plays in marketing and customer loyalty. Today, businesses and entrepreneurs use content to drive sales and to build their authority online. For example, if you read blog posts about the Yogic lifestyle on a yoga clothing company’s website, chances are you’ll probably trust them enough to buy yoga clothing from them.
Since content has so much power and is everywhere, the quality of content can be a deciding factor for many people. Errors can make a business look sloppy and unprofessional. Flawless and clear content is a priority, so many people are now asking for proofreaders who are knowledgeable in light copyediting skills so that, if necessary, they’re able to go deeper into the content to make it the best it can be.
Expectations of proofreaders are also rising; clients want someone who’ll go beyond correcting typos. In my free 5-day ecourse, Proofreading 101, I go into more detail on why and how proofreading is changing. You can sign up for it in the box below!
Before we learn more about high-level proofreading, let’s first look at the differences between proofreading and copyediting.
What Is Proofreading?
A proofreader’s job is to read through content to catch any errors before hitting Publish, or before a book is prepared for printing. It’s considered the easiest form of editing since it’s only a surface check, and there’s no heavy research or rewriting involved. While you need a great command of English, you don’t need a degree or certificate to work as a proofreader.
- fixing spelling, punctuation, and formatting
- looking for incorrect word use
- correcting errors in obvious facts
The majority of content out there doesn’t go through a tiered editing process like books do at a publishing house. During the book publishing process, the manuscript has already passed by several pairs of eyes before it reaches the proofreader, which means it’s already in a pretty clean state. A proofreader’s job is to read the manuscript and correct anything that was missed by the line editor and copyeditor.
If you’re proofreading a blog post, brochure, article, or press release, chances are that the only people who’ve seen the content before you was the writer, and very little editing or proofreading has been done. In this case, it’d be invaluable to have copyediting skills to draw from, as you’d likely have to go deeper with the content to ensure high quality.
What Is Copyediting?
Copyediting is a technical approach to text that requires meticulous attention to detail while also looking at the bigger picture. This means that copyeditors make sure what was written on page 5 is consistent with what’s written on page 40. They also make sure the writer’s message and voice comes across clearly.
Copyeditors do a lot of research, and it’s not uncommon to become practically an expert on specific topics. They use multiple resources like style guides, dictionaries, reference books, encyclopedias, and websites.
If necessary, they’ll also query the writer and/or editor on story issues that need to be changed or addressed. They also have the power to make suggestions to content and to do light rewriting.
- correcting spelling, punctuation, grammar, word use, and syntax
- maintaining consistent language style (Is it written in US English or UK English?)
- researching and addressing the plausibility of text
- correcting inconsistencies in overall content
- fixing timeline issues
- developing a style guide
These are just some tasks a copyeditor oversees. Copyeditors are also trained to spot issues that could be problematic for the client.
What Is High-Level Proofreading?
I believe it’s in a proofreader’s best interest to learn light copyediting skills, so I coined the term “high-level proofreading” to reflect the mix of the two skills. High-level proofreading is a full stack of proofreading skills supplemented by light copyediting skills.
Some of you may already know this as “proof-editing,” but it’s how a lot of seasoned proofreaders and editors work because we know that sometimes due diligence calls for more.
From my experience working in the industry for over 16 years, I can tell you that more and more clients are requesting proofreaders who have the ability to go beyond surface checks. They want proofreaders who can understand the content and its purpose, and can spot potential problems, and make suggestions.
In many instances, I find that people will advertise for proofreaders expecting copyediting skills. Often, people aren’t aware of the differences between the two. Some even assume they’re the same thing.
Here’s a recent job posting I found on a popular job site that shows the need for high-level proofreading:
Knowing light copyediting skills will elevate your technique and level of experience. It’ll also make you more valuable and marketable, and set you up for a sustainable career. In some cases, you may even be eligible for copyediting jobs. And if the pros already work like this, don’t you want to, as well?
If you look at proofreading as the starting point of editing, doesn’t it make sense for proofreaders to progress to copyediting? In fact, proofreaders and copyeditors even use the same editorial resources. The Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook are two of the most heavily referenced style guides.
In my experience training people, it’s a seamless process to learn both proofreading and light copyediting. That’s why I created my course, High-Level Proofreading Pro, to teach you the proofreading and light copyediting skills that clients expect.
Why You Need To Learn High-Level Proofreading
Not only do you add a hugely valuable skill to your knowledge base, but you also gain an advantage over other freelance proofreaders. People will be more inclined to hire you because of your robust skill set. You’ll bring more to the table, and you’ll also leave a positive impression on clients that can lead to more work and referrals.
In today’s tech-savvy age, and with the proliferation of online content, self-published writers, and entrepreneurs, there are many ways for you to make money freelance proofreading.
Some content you’ll be able to apply high-level proofreading skills to are:
- books and ebooks
- journals and magazines
- white papers
- websites and blogs
- research papers
- marketing material
- social media content
Now you know the differences and similarities between proofreading and copyediting, and what high-level proofreading is and why you should aim to learn it. It’s essential for today’s proofreader to know some copyediting techniques if you truly want to do professional-level work and attract and retain clients. Make clients so happy with your multilevel proofreading skills that they come back to you with more work.