Proofreader Job Description

Proofreaders are on the frontlines of editing. They are charged with reviewing, proofing, and editing written and digital content in fast-paced publishing environments. Proofreaders are natural perfectionists, and their personalities lean towards meticulous and thorough work. Employers across all industries employ proofreaders to ensure that final work product is error-free, consistent, and accurate. Although proofreaders may enjoy some flexibility in their work hours, they are expected to meet tight deadlines and manage multiple projects at any given time, necessitating work on some nights and weekends.


Proofreader Duties and Responsibilities

Proofreaders shoulder the initial editing burden by reviewing creative content across a variety of media and industries. Responsibilities depend on the employer’s needs and sometimes may expand into producing copy and improving processes. Current job opportunities frequently list the following duties for proofreaders:

Proofread Written And Digital Work Product

Proofreaders do exactly what their job title suggests: they proofread materials for spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, usage, consistency, and brand voice. Proofreaders review and markup written work, such as marketing materials (brochures and flyers) and internal documents. Proofreaders also proof digital communications and correspondence, including emails, press releases, and website text.

Crosscheck References and Data

Proofreaders are tasked with ensuring the accuracy of content. They verify the accuracy of all referenced facts (e.g., dates, pages, values) and double-check cross-referenced materials (e.g., websites, newspapers). Proofreaders may also be required to maintain source and reference logs to support their work.

Review Output for Consistency

Proofreaders also review content with an eye towards campaign, product, or brand consistency. Accordingly, proofreaders are familiar with company-wide work to maintain consistency.

Collaborate with Team Members

Proofreaders, working as part of a larger editing team, attend team meetings, provide constructive editorial input, and communicate with team members to effectuate consistent, accurate, and high-quality work product.

Improve Editing Processes

Proofreaders are often asked to suggest process improvements. Through their daily exposure to copy and procedures, proofreaders can evaluate and recommend changes to create efficiencies.


Proofreader Skills and Qualifications

Proofreaders love the little details, and it shows in their work. The best proofreaders take pride in the quality of their product and are enthusiastic members of the editing team. Along with a bachelor’s degree, proofreaders bring the following skills to the editing table:

  • Writing and editing – proofreaders that write well, edit well. So it should be no surprise that successful proofreaders are talented writers. And with good editing comes good proofreading. Proofreaders also are fluent in proofreading symbols, which remain relevant, notwithstanding Word’s ubiquitous track changes
  • Computer proficiency – proofreaders work extensively on digital content and word processing software. As print media continues to decline, proofreaders will develop their computer skills to complete their job
  • Detail oriented – a proofreader’s attention to detail is the centerpiece of his or her suite of editing qualities. Whether on paper or on screen, a proofreader needs to have a knack for catching the most trivial of errors, along with those most glaring
  • Quick reader – with deadlines always around the corner, proofreaders read and edit quickly without sacrificing quality
  • Resourcefulness – while crosschecking and verifying data, proofreaders track down the appropriate resources and address questions or issues in the copy that might require additional research. When faced with these hurdles, proofreaders know where to find answers to get the project to the finish line
  • Multitasker – proofreaders are expected to manage and prioritize multiple projects at once. These priorities may change from day to day, so proofreaders are both flexible and persistent in their pursuit of the perfect copy


Proofreader Tools of the Trade

Along with a pencil and a red pen, proofreaders regularly use the following:

  • Word-processing and editing software (e.g., Word, Adobe Pro)
  • Style manuals (e.g., AP Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style)


Proofreader Education and Training

Proofreaders are expected to have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in English, journalism, communications, or a related field. Years of experience vary, but usually, a minimum of one-to-two years is required. Depending on the industry, employers may require multiple years of industry-related experience.


Proofreader Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) most closely approximates proofreader employment data by reference to “proofreader and copy markers” statistics. The BLS lists the 2016 median annual salary for proofreader and copy markers at $36,960, or $17.77 per hour. Proofreader and copy markers in the lowest ten percent earned $21,660 a year, and the highest ten percent made over $60,500 a year. The “newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers” industry employed the largest percentage of proofreader and copy markers, while the “religious organizations” and “accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services” industries paid the highest wages.

Proofreader and copy markers employment is projected to grow by two percent from 2016 through 2026, a rate the BLS describes as slower than average.


Proofreader Helpful Resources

If you’re looking to learn more about proofreaders, or if you’re ready to pursue an editing position, these resources are a great way to get started:

McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook (Second Edition) – This handy desk reference is a valuable tool for any new or seasoned proofreader. It includes a detailed walkthrough of the proofreading process, as well as handy proofreading checklists and a proofreading symbol cheat sheet.

Chicago Manual of Style – Although a subscription is required, prospective proofreaders may use the online version’s 30-day trial to get acquainted with one of the industry’s standards of style.

Editorial Freelancers Association – The EFA provides a resource for members to identify and connect with other freelance editors. The EFA also supports membership with educational tools.

Copy Edit This! – Want to put your editing skills to the test? Try this first in a series of at least nine interactive copy editing quizzes put out by the New York Times.

@copyeditors – This active Twitter account is run by ACES: The Society for Editing, a trade organization for editing professionals.

After Deadline – A retired but interesting New York Times editing blog that offered anecdotal “questions of grammar, usage, and style encountered by writers and editors of The Times.”


Proofreader Resume Help

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