What is Proofreading?

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Even the best writers like Ernest Hemingway and Harper Lee probably made mistakes in their manuscripts. And even the best editors can miss these errors. But a final step before publishing written works called proofreading can prevent readers from noticing these mistakes.

Keep reading to know the different types of proofreading and why this process is essential. 

What is Proofreading, and Why is it Important?

Proofreading is when you read a written document and mark different types of errors. After writing, you evaluate the whole work for spelling, grammar, style, and punctuation consistency.

It’s the final and, arguably, the most crucial stage of the writing process before publication which you shouldn’t skip. Reread your text sentence by sentence from start to finish to look for typos, inconsistencies, and formatting issues. Do it carefully and out loud, so you will hear what your work sounds like. 

You can also receive proofreading services, so you will be guaranteed that your text is perfect. It will ensure that your document is free from errors and checked to a high standard. 

Remember in 2019 when Game of Thrones accidentally snuck in a Starbucks cup during one episode? Sure, it might seem like a tiny error, but the number of viewers pointing it out caused an issue. The same could happen if you don’t proofread. 

If you don’t proofread, your published book will have several spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes you thought you already corrected. Your readers will likely spot these mistakes and judge your credibility. 

Proofreading guarantees your work isn’t only free from grammar and spelling errors. It also offers a better reading experience for your audience. Of course, it also adds a level of professionalism on your side. 

Editing vs. Proofreading 

Editing and proofreading are two different stages a piece of writing should undergo before publication. Some consider proofreading as part of the editing process despite its distinctiveness. 

Authors need to hire editing and proofreading companies whether they prefer digital publishing or the traditional publishing industry. The difference between proofreading and editing is the level of corrections they make. 

Proofreading is a surface-level check that looks for typographical errors, incorrect punctuation, and numerical inconsistencies in the finished document. It checks individual sentences for mechanical and grammatical errors.

The editing process is more complex. It corrects language clarity and sentence construction. The editors’ goal is to make sure your work is readable and clear with the proper tone. An experienced editor also examines your storyline, characters, and style of writing. 


Done on the first draft of your writing

Addresses the main features such as clarity in writing and flow of writing in papers

Considers the intended audience, readability, style guide, and smooth narration

Composed of content editing, line editing, and copy editing, therefore taking more time.  


Done on the final draft

Aims for mechanical consistency by correcting spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes

Looks for formatting errors, improper comma use, dangling modifiers, etc.

Composed of mechanical evaluation

How is Proofreading Done?

Professional proofreading is an essential step before publishing your work. However, if you’re only submitting academic papers for school assignments, you can proofread independently. Take a look at what factors you should consider during the proofreading process.

Grammar and Spelling Check

One of the essential proofreading skills you should learn is identifying accuracy in grammar and spelling. You can manually check this aspect or use a word processing program for more effective proofreading. 

The program will automatically underline your mistakes in grammar and spelling. They also provide corrections for typos in your writing.

Read Your Paper Out Loud

Even if you’re using Grammarly premium, no amount of online proofreading assistants will perfect your writing. Read your piece out loud. It doesn’t matter if it’s an email, a fictional story, or some formal documents.

Watch out for confusing sentences that you need to rewrite for a more cohesive experience. Take it slow when reading to ensure error-free, professional documents.

Examine the Verbs

Once you’ve ruled out a handful of typos, it’s time to check each verb in your sentences. Ask the following questions:

  • Are you using interesting action words?
  • Are you using the same verbs too much?
  • Are your verbs in the active tense?

Your online grammar checker might assist you in this step to make improvements to grammar. But it’s much better to encircle every verb and manually check the document for correctness.


You may have already corrected your wrong comma placement after doing the steps above. But it’s great to take another read to mark corrections in your punctuation errors.

Make sure you show adherence to punctuation guidelines. Consider accurate punctuation for quotation marks, colons, semi-colons, parenthesis, hyphens, and dashes.

Argument, Tone, and Voice

This step is usually left for the editors because it’s not part of the scope of basic proofreading skills. But it can be part of a combined proofreading process too. 

A freelance proofreader and professional editor can check your thesis statement, tone, and voice depending on their experience level. They will examine your work paragraph by paragraph to check for logic and exciting language. 

Working With a Professional Proofreader

Most traditional publishing houses do not publish unless your work is proofread. They don’t want readers to notice grammar errors and typos as they could affect their experience and your reputation.

You might be tempted to proofread your work yourself if you’re self-publishing like me. But it’s better to have a fresh pair of professional eyes look through the quality of your writing. 

Aside from publishing houses, you’ll also see proofreaders in journalism and advertising. They also work in other corporate settings to check presentations and business writing.

Tips for Finding a Professional Proofreader

Professional proofreaders do more than correct your obvious typos. So it’s essential to know what kind of proofreading service you need, where to hire, and how much to pay. Here are some tips that might help.

Consider if You Also Need Editing

You should be clear about what you need for your writing. Most proofreaders only check your paragraphs for grammar mistakes and basic corrections. They remove improper punctuation usage, inconsistent bullet point style, and other formatting issues.

Some companies offer both proofreading and editing in one service. They can fix your inconsistent brand style, flow in writing, and character developments in your story. 

Specify Your Preferences

Proofreading is a two-way street where you and the proofreader agree on the corrections needed. Some writers only hire proofreaders for minor spelling issues and comma rules. They don’t want them to mind the bulky paragraphs or consistency issues for some reason.

You can also ask your proofreader to let the sentence fragments be if they are part of your creative writing style. 

Search Niche Marketplaces

Go directly to marketplaces that offer book proofreading if you are writing a book. You can also go straight to directories of proofreaders for formal documents or legal papers. Proofreading jobs vary according to specialization, so be wise about where you’re hiring.

Make sure you’re looking through portfolios of people who show adherence to style guidelines similar to yours. Check if they have conducted grammar workshops and if they can proofread an entire document the way you want.

Set a Budget

The cost of proofreading depends on several factors. For instance, will you hire someone who does online proofreading, or do they need a printed copy? Are they working freelance or in a huge publishing industry? The price also varies according to practical proofreading skills.

Proofreaders usually charge per word or hour to correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If you need service for formatting, they may charge per page. Make sure to get a qualified proofreader who will return your error-free document. 

Wait for the Proofreader

Proofreading takes a lot of time, depending on the length and type of your work. Whether you have legal documents, college papers, or a business document, hiring one who delivers on time is vital.

Some companies offer different choices for deadlines. But the typical minimum number of hours to correct your spelling and grammar issues is 24. Proofreaders have to double-check all words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages.

For combined proofreading and editing, expect a 10,000-word piece to finish in 24 hours. 

Proofreading Your Own Work

Proofreading your own work is only acceptable for school assignments, personal writing, and other texts that you won’t publish. Now that you know the common steps, here are some DIY proofreading tips to make the process easier.

Online Spelling and Grammar Checkers are Not Enough

These online tools are a significant first step in determining minor issues. However, there are advanced mistakes that only a human proofreader can correct. Some spell checkers also flag some words as misspellings even if they are correct.

Proofread One Error at a Time

Proofreading is a meticulous process, so be patient. Instead of correcting all errors at once, try rereading it for spelling mistakes, then do it again for grammar errors. Doing so will make it easier to focus on every issue. 

Divide the Text into Chunks

Divide your text into several parts to make your tasks more manageable. Take a break after every chunk, then continue with your work. Doing this technique helps proofread larger documents like research papers and practicum projects.

Read Backwards

Reading your piece of writing backward helps identify spelling mistakes because your brain works harder to read every word. Start with the last words and follow each one until you reach the front page of your text.

Types of Proofreading

Not all documents are similar, and neither are the types of proofreading. Here are the more common types of proofreading available. 

Beta Reader

A beta reader reviews your finished manuscript before it is published. Their job is to provide the author with general feedback as an ordinary reader. 

Beta readers are not necessarily professional readers or proofreaders. They can be your friends or family—anyone who can use a reader’s point of view. Pointing out scenes and parts they liked and disliked is part of their job. They may also highlight misunderstood aspects of the book.

What makes beta readers different from alpha readers is when they read your manuscript. Alpha readers read your draft while beta readers read the manuscripts. 

Grammar and Spelling Proofreading

This type of proofreading is also known as print media proofreading. It’s the most common because almost all industries and disciplines need it. 

Whether for your thesis paper or business proposal, any document requires proper adherence to English spelling and grammar rules. Other applications include newspapers, magazines, and books. 

Academic Proofreading

Proofreading for academic purposes requires a clear understanding of the different citation styles. The proofreader’s job is to make sure it sticks to one house style, whether MLA, APA, or Chicago.

They should know whether to edit the paper in the British or American language and whether to place a space between parentheses. Academic proofreaders should also be experts in formatting tables and figures using different style guides. 

This type of proofreader is commonly found in academic publications. Non-native English speakers hire them all the time for their international journals.

Translation and Bilingual Proofreading

The translated text has a different type of error than writings originally in English already. Proofreading texts written in English concentrates on misuse of homonyms like they’re and their or too and to. Meanwhile, translation proofreading focuses on mistranslated words. 

This type of proofreading is also known as bilingual proofreading. It also ensures that the text aligns with the original, such as the cultural significance of words. 

Translation proofreaders need to have a solid knowledge of two languages. They should also be aware of common translation errors and awkward word choices.

Always Proofread Your Work

Proofreading is the final step you take before publishing a document. Whether you’re writing a blog post, novel, or business document, different types of proofreading will cater to your needs. 

If you plan on proofreading independently, make sure to read your text slowly and focus only on one error at a time. Divide your text into chunks so you can concentrate more effectively.