Ignorant people think it is the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it is the sickening grammar that they use. —Mark Twain

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Proofreading in Printing and Publishing

News Boy selling papers

Before the introduction of child labor laws, boys as young as five would stand on the street corners selling newspapers. Image courtesy US Library of Congress.

Proofreading means reading a proof copy of a text in order to detect and correct any errors. A proof copy is traditionally a version of a manuscript that has been typeset after copyediting, but today the line between copyediting and proofreading is growing thin. When handwritten originals were common, it was often easier for a copy editor to review and mark up a manuscript after it had been typeset. With computer typesetting from electronic manuscripts, the distinction becomes even more blurred.

Proof typescripts often contain typographical errors introduced by mistyping (hence the word “typo” to refer to misplaced or incorrect characters). Traditionally, a proofreader checks the typeset copy and marks any errors using standard proof correction marks. The proof is then returned to the typesetter for correction, and a second proof copy (or “revise”) is generated.

Today, the term “proofreading” is often used incorrectly to refer to copyediting, although there is overlap between the two. Proofreading consists of reviewing any text, hardcopy or electronic copy (on a computer), against an original document and checking for formatting errors and typos. Many computerized word processors offer the ability to “show formatting marks,” displaying them as visible characters which allow proofreaders to ensure that there are no multiple spaces or stray carriage returns present in the text.

Copyediting consists of checking grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting; noting inconsistencies; and pointing out any wording that is unclear, ambiguous, or potentially offensive.

Twenty Years of Proofreading and Editing Experience

Do you need a freelance editor or proofreader for your finished manuscript? We can help you. To reach one of our editing or book design professionals, e-mail us at editor@compassrose.com. We look forward to working with you!


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