What is proofreading and why should you care?

What is proofreading and why should you care?

The publishing process involves many steps and often the work of different people before the document can be set off for printing and online publication. One of those phases is the service called proofreading. In this article, you will learn what role proofreading plays and how it differs from other services.

The steps of the publishing process:

  1. language editing
  2. copyediting
  3. typesetting (known also as technical editing)
  4. proofreading
  5. XML publication (academic publishing only).

After typesetting

In the past, once typesetters had finished arranging the types, they would print each page for a final read by the publisher or author. The print used to be very expensive, therefore a checkup step was necessary before producing a large number of copies. The pages created for testing were known as proofs, hence the name of the phase – proofreading.

Today, manuscripts are typeset digitally and proofs are provided in the form of PDF files. Proofreaders may print those out and mark up physical copies or complete proofreading online. Online verification, especially in the case of academic publishing, is becoming increasingly popular, since it is faster and does not require a manual scanning. In an online environment the document can be also instantly shared between all the people working on it, making the whole process more effective.

Regardless of the form, online or manual, the proofreader’s task is to read through the text and highlight any errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, including:

  • consistency issues
  • broken web links
  • missing references
  • problems with captions and images
  • visual layout errors
  • the match between the index and content
  • factual inaccuracies
  • paragraphs difficult to follow or understand.

Proofreading marks and their meaning

Professional proofreaders use symbols when checking and marking up documents to inform typesetters about any necessary changes to the text. There are many symbols used for proofreading and each of them has a specific function, ¶ for example denotes a need to begin a new paragraph.

If you are proofreading yourself, you may find it difficult to work with proofreading signs. Many typesetters accept text highlights and sticky notes placed into PDFs, so make sure to consult the details ahead of the process.

Proofreading of an academic article

The difference between proofreading and editing

Most people think that proofreading and editing are the same service. There is however a big difference between these two processes.

Editing, known also as copyediting, verifies the overall structure of the paper, including the order of ideas, the transition between paragraphs, and the development of the argument. Copyediting takes place at the beginning of the publishing process and is usually performed together with language correction.

Proofreading comes at the end of the document preparation process. The service focuses on remaining errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling that could be left after the completion of all the other activities. Proofreading looks also for mistakes that could have appeared during the technical editing phase.

Proofreading is applied on an already typeset document, whereas copyediting takes place when the paper is still in its source format. To read more about similarities and differences between those two processes, click here.

Academic proofreading

There are a few different types of proofreading, such as business or translation proofreading. The service applied to scientific papers is called academic proofreading.

University presses and publishing companies usually employ their own professional proofreaders to check such documents. While working with academics, proofreaders are  particularly careful. They do not modify the text directly, but rather highlight potential mistakes, allowing you and your managing editor to make the final decision.

Professional proofreading service

When reviewing the proofread paper make sure to address each of the comments before sending it back. In most cases, the corrected document with your remarks applied will be sent back to you for your final acceptance. When you receive it, read through it again, paying special attention to those fragments that you have previously underlined. Some documents are lengthy, and even the best typesetters and proofreaders may accidentally omit your notes when reviewing the file.

In case you do not work with a publisher, but proofread on your own, keep in mind a few things:

  • first, remember to check for any spelling or grammatical errors. These can be easily fixed with free checking tools available online;
  • look for factual errors. Verify references and make sure that all the information in the document is accurate;
  • check that the overall tone of the document is professional and appropriate;
  • ask your colleague or mentor to read through your document. Peer-reviewing usually helps to spot errors and inaccuracies that you have overlooked.
Academic proofreading at Sciendo with the use of InDesign software

If you are doubtful that you can perform proofreading by yourself, commercial professional services are here to help. These services will cost you money, but they will correct all the mistakes in your work. There are many different proofreading services available online, so it is important to choose one that best suits your needs. For instance, some services check only grammar and spelling errors, while others verify also factual inaccuracies.

Academic proofreading can be time-consuming, but it is an important step before submitting and eventually publishing. Any mistakes in writing or layout can harm the reading experience. Instead of focusing on the content, readers may focus on errors, which potentially reduces the academic impact of your paper. By taking the time, you can be confident that you are presenting the best possible work to your audience.

Professional proofreading service at Sciendo

Sciendo works with typesetters and proofreaders specialising in academic content. Our goal is to ensure that your publication is not only free of errors that could detract from its quality, but also looks good and is set for maximum recognition and increased citations.

To find out more about how we can help your publication, please fill in the contact form.

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