Proofreading FAQs

Your proofreading questions answered

1. How are documents marked by a trained proofreader?

Trained proofreaders use proofreading marks issued by the British Standard Institute (BSi). I trained with The Publishing Training Centre using the BS 5261-2:2005 marks. However, to the untrained eye, these marks can be confusing or incomprehensible, in which case, it may be necessary to supply the client with a crib sheet or simplified explanation document.

However, because so much work is now done digitally, it has become increasingly common to not use marks at all, but use Microsoft Word’s Track Changes function. This function, when turned on, shows every correction made. It also offers the user the change to Accept a change or Reject it. Proofreading in this manner means the client doesn’t need to understand industry marks, and perhaps more beneficially for them, do not need to implement the changes the proofreader has recommended. If the proofreader hasn’t already supplied the client with a Changes Accepted version of their document (which is what I do), then they simply Accept All Changes on the document that has all the changes shown.

See samples of Track Changes being used on documents.

2. What does a proofreader not do?

A trained proofreader will not make/suggest major style or writing corrections/changes to your manuscript or document, nor will he or she format your document to a specified layout.

For more information on the various editorial-style roles, read Understanding Editing and Proofreading.

3. How quickly does a proofreader work?

The turnaround times for proofreading will depend on three things:

  • how long a document is
  • how complex a document is
  • how much work is needed

Proofreading demands a high level of concentration, so a proofreader can only work at this level for a few hours at a time and remain effective and efficient. If a project brief and/or style guide is complex, then time also has to be factored in for the proofreader to check these and remain compliant with the details.

On average, a trained proofreader can proofread around 2,000-2,500 words per hour.

4. Will my document be completely free of errors?

Although I will aim to catch all the errors in your document, I cannot guarantee I will because I am not a machine.

Please read my 100% Proofreading Perfection – Is It Possible? page to understand more or visit the Society for Editors and Proofreaders Standards in Proofreading page.

5. What is the proofreading project process?

The way it works is that once I have supplied a quotation for the work, the contract has been signed and the deposit has been paid, the client forwards his or her document by their preferred means: post/courier for hard copies, email/file sharing for digital files.

I will then check that I have all the information I need to get to work: the client’s preferred style for headings, references, etc. Then, using either Track Changes, PDF markup or good old-fashioned pen and paper, I will begin work on correcting the document. The client must, of course, have Microsoft Word and/or Adobe Reader installed on his or her computer.

If Track Changes is being used, then I will supply the client with two copies of their corrected document. The first will be called ‘A Fiction Manuscript with Changes Shown’, just as an example. When the client turns on the Track Changes on their Word, they will be able to see all the corrections I have made. The second will be called ‘A Fiction Manuscript with Changes Accepted’, which will not show any of the changes but instead present the client with a ‘clean’ copy that is a great deal easier to read than the Changes Shown version.

If PDF markup is being used, then the digital file will be returned to the client who will then need to implement the changes into his or her original document. The same goes for pen and paper markup.

​If anything about my proofreading is unclear or the client has queries, the client has 72 hours from the time I send the file back to ask me to explain and/or amend corrections.

If these FAQs still leave you with questions, then contact me directly using the Contact Form.