One of the big differences between a good editing job and one that is not so good is whether or not a final proofreading is done. This stage in the editing process is essential to catch the small, but highly visible, imperfections that may remain in the text, despite our best previous efforts.
Some things that can taint the process: sometimes a person mistakenly edits something that was actually correct (often in good faith, but ignorant of the rules), a figure can be mistakenly reversed, images can be left on the wrong page, an assembly and non-textual error can occur (a master page element mistakenly going into a chapter window), and other small imperfections in the process.
They all may be small things — and I've seen them in many books I’ve read — but they make the difference between a work done with care and love, and one that looks like no one has really bothered to review and revise it.
In a traditional editorial department, when the manuscript is nearly a finished product — meaning it has been edited, laid out and designed — the proofreader searches for typographical errors, makes sure there are no omissions or missing pages, corrects awkward page or word breaks and checks to make sure all chapter titles and headings are consistent. The proofreader works with a facsimile of a finished product, or a proof (hence the term proofreading).
Proofreaders don’t suggest major changes to the text. Rather, we look for minor text and formatting errors and confirm the material is ready for publication.
While we may do light editing such as the aforementioned correcting of inconsistent spellings or hyphenations, professional proofreaders are not stylistic or copy editors. Depending on the team makeup, if too many errors are cited we might have to return the proof for further copy editing.
Proofreading is required by traditional publishers — one last set of eyes, as a quality-assurance measure, before printing off a mass quantity of books.
Many self-publishing authors who have had their manuscript professionally developmentally edited and then copy edited skip the proofreading step. This is a mistake since there can still be mistakes and inconsistencies. It is always good to hire a proofreader to have one more look at your work before it goes to press.
Some self-publishing authors might believe they can skip the editing process altogether. While it is true that they might have great writing skills, having that other set of eyes to look over the manuscript, at least to be proofread, is essential because it can be difficult to see one’s own typos. The fact that I can do English proofreading and Spanish proofreading is a big plus for many of my clients.
I have worked with various publishing and editing firms, and at times it does seem like each company has a different definition of the functions of the copy editor and proofreader, and tasks can overlap. Ideally, a separate proofreader is hired when there is the luxury of time before print. But, truth be told, proofreading and copy editing will often merge into one step if the project is on a tight timeline or budget. Before starting a project, it is essential to find out exactly what the client wants and needs, as well as being sure of what the project manager of the publishing company is looking for.
A well-informed team is a happy and productive team!
Do you need professional help with English proofreading or Spanish proofreading?