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2 September 2016

The role of the proofreader

What does a proofreader do? And is it a role I might enjoy? If you find yourself asking these questions then fear not, our free guide on Copy-editing and Proofreading will help.

A proofreader is the person within the book publishing world who works in conjunction with the copy-editor to ensure that a publication fulfils its purpose and is readable.

However accomplished the author, they are too close to their own work to read it. When the publisher receives the typescript (raw manuscript) from the author, it is given to a copy- editor who has to put themselves in the position of both the reader and the author and ensure that the author’s intended meaning is clear.

The role of the copy-editor is to ensure that the typescript is:

  • free from errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • correct in factual detail
  • formatted according to the requirements of the publishing process
  • readable and comprehensible at the level of readership expected
  • consistent in presentation and in content
  • free from libel, plagiarism and copyright infringement.

When the copy-editor’s work is complete the work is typeset (styled and laid out for publication) to prepare it for production. This is where the proofreader comes in.

The role of the proofreader is to check that the typeset publication is:

  • free from errors missed by the copy-editor
  • correctly structured and laid out according to the brief given to the typesetter/web developer/designer
  • readable: the layout of the text flows in such a way that the reader can follow it, and it is legible
  • free from typesetting errors and errors in illustrative material
  • consistent not only in style, but also in content.

The proofreader acts as a second pair of eyes, checking for errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation. Proofreading also has important functions that copy-editing does not ─ it involves checking the typesetter’s work: ensuring that correct fonts and styles have been used, that the layout makes sense and is readable, and that rules of typesetting (e.g. correct hyphenation, avoidance of poor line breaks) have been followed.

Download your free copy of Copy-editing and Proofreading.

© Jane Buekett 2015

Updated 2020

Jane Buekett

The PTC's Essential Proofreading course is ideal for learning the skills and knowledge required to proofread effectively. Click here for more information.