Proofreading Can Make or Break Your Writing: Why You Need to Hire a Professional

Why you need a proofreader

What are the benefits of proofreading?

Oftentimes, our first impression is through our writing. Writing helps us tell stories, achieve goals, and get the word out about products and services. Proofreading can make sure your writing is clear, concise, and error-free.

My name is Rosemary and I’m a proofreader for Writing Rose. I help my clients express themselves with writing that is polished and professional. In this post, I’ll use my expertise to build a case for how writers of novels, blogs, articles, and other published works can improve their writing by hiring professional proofreaders.

First, I’ll go over what English proofreading services are. Then, I’ll explain the benefits of proofreading and describe what kinds of documents need proofreading and editing. Finally, I’ll name some professional proofreading companies and show you how to hire a professional English proofreader.

What are proofreading services?

Proofreading services are the very last step before a document or piece of writing is published or distributed.

A proofreader’s job description includes finding and correcting the tiniest errors in spelling, punctuation, word usage, and formatting. They also adhere to style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style, AP Stylebook, APA, MLA, and/or a house style guide.

Proofreaders do not make suggestions or edits to your words or sentences. They don’t make changes to the text except where a language rule is broken or the sentence does not make sense. So what do proofreading services fix in writing?

Grammar mistakes

She done wrote what she written and it gone and publishing all the livelong day.

That sentence evokes no squiggly-red line of error from my word processing software so it’s good to go, right?

Wrong. There are multiple errors in the above sentence involving the grammar and verb tenses. Here is how a proofreader might revise this sentence:

She done wrote what she had written, and it was gone and published all the livelong day.

What do you think about this? Does it still need tweaking or is it just fine the way it is?

If you think this sentence still needs some help, that would be the job of an editor. However, since it is now grammatically correct – all of the verb tenses line up and there are punctuation marks are in the correct place – the proofreader’s job is done.

Without going into too much grammar-nerd-level detail here about the changes, I’ll just point towards some references that professional proofreaders use when they work with their clients’ writing:

Commonly misused words and phrases

In this professional proofreader’s opinion, these are the most subtle and thus the hardest errors to catch because these words are spelled correctly, just used in the wrong context. Since context helps you know what the author means to say, it is easy to get the bigger picture of the writing while missing these errors. Not everyone misses these errors, though! A proofreader ensures that the meaning of the writing is crystal clear.

Look at these examples. If you’re not convinced catching these are worthy of hiring a professional proofreader, do some research to figure out why they’re wrong using the sources listed above.

  • Using the word illicit in place of elicit
  • For all intensive purposes – are the purposes really that intensive?
  • Did you visit the capital building when you went to the capitol city?
  • Did you do what you were suppose to or what you were supposed to?
  • Are their views deep-seeded in the ground?

This guide from Indiana University East’s Writing Center has more commonly misused words and phrases.

Non-native speakers of English

Being able to write, speak, and think in multiple languages is a great skill. The nuanced and detailed rules of written language can be confusing to native speakers, much less to people who are trying to juggle multiple rule systems in their heads! It’s totally understandable that multilingual people make errors in writing.

For an experienced proofreader, mistakes made by non-native speakers of English are easy to spot and correct. A knowledgeable, experienced English proofreader will edit your writing to a native-level accuracy.

English is considered by many to be a difficult language to learn. This post published by the Oxford Royale Academy outlines many of the reasons why.

Citations, formatting, adherence to style guides

What are style guide and how do you use them? That subject is pretty technical and it’s not necessary for writers to learn all the rules of style guides. If you just want to focus on writing, that’s what you should do! A proofreader can make sure your manuscript follows the guidelines set forth by CMOS, AP, MLA, and/or the house you are publishing with.

What other documents need proofreading services?

Newspapers, magazines, children’s books, website content, presentations, university course materials such as syllabi and slideshows, court reports, brochures and pamphlets, product catalogs, company documents such as training manuals and employee handbooks, and more! Any piece of writing that is meant to be read by any number of people deserves to be clear, concise, and free of errors.

What is editing? Do I need to proofread and edit my documents?

Similar to proofreading, editing looks at writing to ensure it is free of errors and its message is conveyed most clearly. In contrast to proofreading, editing is a more intensive process that sometimes involves rearranging ideas, rewriting sentences, and switching words.

As long as the meaning of the text makes sense and is error-free, proofreading does not make any edits or suggestions. In contrast, editing may make suggestions to use active voice instead of passive voice or may list adjectives more in line with the mood of the story.

I always say that any document meant to be read by any number of people should be proofread. The choice of whether or not to edit your writing is up to you.

If you are interested in learning more, you can read this post that compares and contrasts editing versus proofreading. It’s even got examples of documents so you can see the difference between each level of service.

I have a friend that can proofread for me. Why would I need a professional proofreader?

You should let trusted friends or family members go over your writing with proofreading in mind. They might have ideas or perspectives you didn’t think of before.

Even if you have someone you know look over your document, you still need a professional proofreader. Writing can be high-stakes and long-lasting. That’s why it needs to be the best version of itself.

Perfecting writing is part of a proofreader’s job description. They have a set of meticulously detailed-oriented, objective eyes that will ensure the meaning of your document is conveyed in the best way. They also have special training in the nuanced rules of the English language, training that goes beyond what even English majors learn in college. 

Ensuring your writing is clear, concise, and free of errors can save you from embarrassment, misunderstanding, and missed opportunities. The best way to make this happen is to have a professional proofreader look at your writing.

What kinds of documents need to be proofread?

Resumes, cover letters, application essays, press kits, and professional biographies

Even though documents like these aren’t always published, pe se, they are read by any number of important people. Your artist statement, professional bio, or press kit is also often your first – and could be your only – impression.

Imagine you misspell the name of the person you are greeting. In one line of your contract, you write the name of the venue as “The Grey Couch” instead of “The Gray Couch.” You commit a faux paux by using abbreviations instead of spelling out the full name of each university you’ve attended. These simple errors could be very off-putting to the people reading your document.

Or, in this real example from a client of Writing Rose, a tiny suggestion from a proofreader clears up any potential strangeness.

Documents with high stakes such as these need to be polished until they’re shiny and error-free. Proofreaders can do that for you. No job is too short for proofreading!

Novels and short stories

I am an avid reader. Once, I was reading a very somber book, and at the end of a paragraph I found an error in punctuation. When I found it, I laughed! Finding this tiny error brought me back to reality. It took me away from the story, broke my suspension of disbelief, and clouded the picture the words were painting in my head. If you love reading a good story or novel, you know what I’m talking about here.

It’s true that most people won’t find these kinds of errors. After all, I’m a professional who is trained to find them. If you’re an author, though, you should do as much as you can to ensure the complete enjoyment of your work by all readers – even those who are going to notice tiny errors.

You don’t have to be a professional to notice errors in punctuation, spelling, or formatting in text – plenty of lay people notice these as well. When I was a middle school teacher, my students frequently pointed out tiny errors in books, articles, and my own course materials! I was too busy to carefully proofread my own stuff, and besides, they were thirteen. But this goes to show you that people (even teenagers) do see and notice errors in writing.

If you’re an indie novelist, there are freelance proofreaders out there who would love a chance to help you make your novel the best version of itself it can be. I’ll outline some details on how to find a professional proofreader at the end of this post.

Website content and blog posts

Websites are complex collections of written content. A website can contain a biography or history, detailed descriptions, outlines of philosophies, written statement, tutorials, stories and photos, affiliate disclosures, contact information, and more. Similarly, blogs can serve a variety of purposes, especially for small businesses.

Your website or blog content deserves to be proofread by a professional for similar reasons to resumes and CVs: because that post or that page is sometimes your first (or only) impression. 

And similarly to novels and stories, blog posts can use narrative to describe all manner of topics. To ensure you paint the correct picture in your readers’ minds, make sure your writing is free of errors.

Check out these completely real examples of errors that I have found on blogs and websites. Some of these were even professional proofreading blogs! (Oh dear, now I’m concerned with my own blog!) 

This error was from a professional bio on an ecourse page. The error is in the only complete sentence in the screenshot. Can you see it?

This example is from a professional proofreading blog. I know that grammar rules for titles can be lax but, in my opinion, this phrase is just not correct!

Benefits of proofreading documents for small businesses

I see these common language errors from small businesses all the time:

  • Misspelling a common food item: sandwhiches, tomatoe, potatoe, expresso
  • Accidental misspellings of and/or incorrect use of capital letters with names, places, historical figures, and the like – is it the University of Kansas English department or the University of Kansas Department of English?
  • Inappropriate use of apostrophe’s (see what I did there?)
  • Are profits bigger than this quarter, or are they bigger then this quarter? 
  • Inappropriate “use” of quotation marks

There are plenty of reasons why people make these common errors, and they are nothing to be ashamed of. As I explained above, even a professional can make simple errors in their writing! Also, if you don’t care about knowing detailed grammar rules, that’s okay! There’s no need for everyone to be an expert at language. That’s why there are professional proofreaders.

Since written language has a set of rules that allow for its meaning to be understood most clearly, ensuring your message gets across is synonymous with having error-free writing. As you can see in these examples, errors can be anything from funny all the way to embarassing.

How can I find proofreaders near me?

You can actually hire an English proofreader completely online!

Do you remember the days in school when you proofread sentences and paragraphs using red pen and all those funny proofreaders’ marks?

Proofreaders’ Marks from the Chicago Manual of Style
Proofreaders’ Marks from the Chicago Manual of Style

Those days are long gone. It’s 2019 (as of this writing) and proofreading is completely digital nowadays. To hire a professional English proofreader all you do if find one that you like and contact them.

Proofreading Company Names

Has this post convinced you of the need to hire a professional to help with your writing? Full-service writing companies like Writing Rose, as well as individual freelancers on websites like Upwork and Fiverr, offer proofreading services. 

Alternately, do you think proofreading sounds fun? Are you perhaps interested in becoming a professional proofreader yourself? I’ve used my experience starting my own proofreading business to write this post about how to become a professional proofreader online.

Do you still have questions about proofreading? Feel free to email me, Rosemary, and ask. I’m passionate about my work and am happy to help connect people with resources! I’ll respond to your email soon. Or, you can also leave a comment on this post below for a quicker response.

Why you need a proofreader
Why you need a proofreader
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