How Do I Become a Proofreader?

Research what it takes to become a proofreader. Learn about proofreading training programs, employment opportunities, typical job duties, the median wage for this field and the highest paying states for proofreaders to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering English Reading & Writing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Proofreader?

When written materials are going to be published, they will first be examined by a proofreader. The proofreader will review the text and identify any technical or factual errors or omissions. In addition, they will consider if the text is written in a consistent style and tone and look for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. They may be required to make sure that the images incorporated into the text are correct and identified properly. Proofreaders are also responsible for ensuring that the correct fonts are used consistently throughout, that page numbers are present and that the overall look and presentation of the material is correct. They may work with a wide variety of printed materials, including magazines, textbooks, novels and legal documents. After reviewing the work, they submit any proposed changes to the author, editor or appropriate personnel for corrections. A degree in English is preferred by employers, and prior experience may also be required. The following chart gives an overview of the career.

Training Required Proofreading classes or on-the-job training
Key Skills Grammar, syntax, punctuation, working with others
Job Growth (2014-2024) -2% (for proofreaders and copy markers)*
Median Salary (2015) $35,630 (for proofreaders and copy markers)**

Sources: *O*Net OnLine, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Seek Proofreader Training

You can learn to become a proofreader through on-the-job training. However, you'll improve your employment prospects by completing formal training. You can find proofreading classes offered through community centers, for-profit schools or correspondence programs. Additionally, many colleges and universities, including public and not-for-profit schools, offer certificate programs or standalone classes in proofreading.

In most proofreading programs, you'll study the technical aspects of proofreading. This includes learning about proofreaders' marks, proofreading on the page and proofreading with electronic copy. You'll also study the basic elements of strong writing, such as grammar, spelling, style and formatting. Some programs will train you for proofreading with different types of material, ranging from printed books to online journals.

Find a Job

As a proofreader, you may work as a freelancer, contracting your services on an as-needed basis. You can work from home with many proofreading jobs, especially those involving proofreading of content published online.

You can also work for a company that publishes books, magazines or newspapers. These organizations typically employ full-time proofreaders or copyeditors because of the high volume of material being printed that must maintain high standards of quality. Additionally, proofreaders are needed in the court system to review court transcripts, depositions and other legal texts.

What Will My Job Entail?

Your primary goal as a proofreader is to ensure that the text you're reviewing is free of errors. This will include checking for errors in spelling, grammar, syntax, punctuation and formatting. In addition, you may be asked to improve the flow of the writing and the consistency of the author's voice throughout the piece.

You may work closely with editors and writers, which will require you to have strong communication and interpersonal skills. In most cases, you'll need to learn a house style. Whether you work for a newspaper, website or a book publisher, your employer will have its own policies regarding how material should be edited based on the organization's interpretation of grammar and style rules. Note that house styles can vary notably from firm to firm due to editors' preferences and the lack of a universal standard for the rules of writing.

What Salary Can I Expect?

Proofreaders and copy markers had a median hourly wage of $17.13 in May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). This translated to a median annual wage of $35,630. At that time, the highest reported wages were in the District of Columbia, where proofreaders and copy markers earned an average of $48,250 yearly. This was followed by Oregon, Massachusetts, New York and Illinois. Newspaper, book, periodical and directory publishers employed the most proofreaders and copy markers throughout the nation, with 3,340 out of 10,810 total proofreaders and copy markers employed in the industry in 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Editors and desktop publishers are professionals who perform many tasks that are similar to the duties of a proofreader. Editors review written text and identify errors that need to be corrected in order to ensure that it is ready for publication. This is similar to the work of a proofreader, because their focus is on ensuring the accuracy of the written material. However, editors may have more input in helping writers with their ideas and story development and have a say in what gets published. Editors need a bachelor's degree, which is recommended for proofreaders, and both editors and proofreaders need strong English skills.

Desktop publishers need an associate's degree, and they do not necessarily need to study English; however, they are involved in assembling material so that it is visually pleasing and ready for publication. Their material may be published in print on online. They assemble photographs, text, graphics and other items and must ensure that they're presented in a pleasing way and that all of the content is identified correctly. This is similar to the responsibilities a proofreader, who has to ensure that the documents they work with are formatted correctly with the correct typeface and that all pictures and components in the material are identified properly.

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