Proofreading tips: Part 2

Lyn LaveryOur previous post on proofreading tips discussed some simple techniques for proofing your work using Microsoft Word. If you have a little time up your sleeve before submitting, we’d recommend engaging the services of a professional proofreader – this post focuses on some tips for making the most of these services.

Do your homework

A quick search will result in numerous proofreading services – either freelancers, specialist companies or software that will ‘magically’ do the job. When considering who (or what) to use, weigh up their reputation, qualifications, price and promised turnaround times. You can also talk to your colleagues as they may be able to recommend someone they’ve used in the past.

Know what’s involved

Surprisingly, while the idea of proofreading seems very black and white, the process seems to be interpreted differently by different people. Some perceive that it involves actually reworking/rewriting the text (this is actually editing), while others think it just involves checking for typos. There’s also a lot of confusion about proofreading in terms of whether it involves checking the formatting and references.

Communicate clearly to the proofreader you’ve chosen to work with so that you’re both on the same page about these things. You should also ensure there are clear written expectations as to what will be checked and what the turnaround time will be. If there’s a particular style guide you’re following, or you know there are problems with your writing (use of tense or punctuation for example) then let them know this also.

You generally “pay for what you get”

Be wary of some of the cheaper services out there and also don’t be fooled into thinking that an app or online service will solve all your proofreading problems. Nothing beats an experienced proofreader taking the time to go through your work in detail.

Also keep in mind that there will be differences across proofreaders in terms of how they charge. Some charge by the hour, others by the number of words, and some provide a fixed price (the latter is how we work here at Academic Consulting). If you’re being charged by the hour, ensure you get a clear quote (not estimate) upfront – an experienced proofreader should have no difficulties quoting the time it will take them once they’ve seen your document.

There are numerous apps and online services that can check your work very quickly and cheaply. While we see value in these (and use several of these ourselves), you need to be realistic about the results. For example, when talking to a client last week about their experience with an automated online proofing service, they made the statement, “It [the service] removed my voice from my writing and made me sound like a robot. Lots of changes were made to text that were correct in isolation, but not in the wider context. It took me quite a while to undo lots of the changes”.

Follow the rules

Before seeking out possible proofreaders for your work, first check to see what your university regulations are regarding this. For graded work such as a thesis, there may be rules around what a proofreader is allowed to change in your work (or even whether you are allowed to use a proofreader at all). If there are regulations, make sure you send these to the proofreader you’re working with, although if they’re local they should already be familiar with these.

And finally…

Don’t forget that we offer proofreading, formatting and reference checking services here at Academic Consulting, and would love to talk to you about your requirements.