According to Wikipedia proofreading traditionally means reading a proof copy of a text in order to detect and correct any errors. Before a text is published it should be free of errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, context and syntax.
Why? Because any text with errors will turn the reader away! Whether it’s a book, article, newsletter or website content, no matter how interesting the topic, no one will want to continue reading because it does not convey quality and reliability of the content and source.
Most people think that proofreading is a boring job, but if you like to read and words are your “thing” (like they’re for me), it’s no effort. In fact it’s even fun; sort of like a puzzle that needs to fit together. I can’t help it, but I will fall over typos I read on websites or in articles. Errors just jump out at me, screaming to be noticed, and I feel this urge to make it right! Of course I can’t do that myself, so I’ll write to the owner or author of the site or article, to let them know about the typo. They may not care to change it, but I’ve done my duty and it feels right! (even if I don’t get paid)
Is all proofreading the same? Absolutely not! The three most common types of proofreading are based on native language, translations and specific knowledge. In turn, these can be used for general, academic, international, technical, scientific, print or electronic publishing.
Proofreading can be done for text that was written in the native language of the writer, but it becomes more complicated when the text is a translation. At that point language and cultural knowledge will peek around the corner and the proofreader should have a good command of both.
Why is this important? Mainly because it helps the proofreader understand what the translator tried to say, but not using the proper expression. I encountered this in my last proofreading assignment, when the writer used “annual development plan” in stead of “medium term plan.” How did I know what he meant? Because I am very familiar with both, the native language and the culture where this expression is used, and that of the audience for whom the text was intended. You see, the writer turned properly used terminology of his native language into an expression that would certainly be misunderstood, even though they have the same meaning in each language. He made a common mistake by doing a literal translation from Dutch into English. More about translations in my next post.
When proofreading a translation, the proofreader can look at the target text only, but sometimes the meaning may not be clear, and he or she will need access to the source (original) text. Both texts can be viewed side by side to compare for accuracy of translation and proper syntax, while the proofreader will constantly switch back and forth between the two languages.
The third most common type of proofreading is when the text is very specific or “technical”. This may require that the proofreader has a technical background as well. For example, a Biochemical research report should be reviewed by someone with a solid background in Biochemistry.
A highly skilled proofreader will usually have a college or postgraduate degree, so be sure to check this before hiring a proofreader for your project.