Before anything gets to see the light of day on the pages of reputable a magazine, newspaper, book or website, chances are, a proofreader has skimmed through the words on that page. Proofreaders are the people who read the drafts of articles and other works to check for errors like misspelled words, sentences that do not necessarily follow the rules of conventional grammar, incomplete thoughts, sentence fragments and similar errors commonly associated with writing. As you would imagine, having a strong grasp of the language is an important skill in this field because you will be essentially correcting the mistakes that other writers before you have made. Patience and an obsession for perfection would definitely help you fine tune your eye for detail required for this job.
- Get a good foundation in language. You are nothing if you don’t have a rock solid foundation. If you’re thinking of being a proofreader, you probably did well in your high school and college English subjects. Familiarity with Literature and Creative Writing units also gives you the edge of being exposed to different writing styles and techniques.
While in school there are also a lot of projects and clubs that would allow you to be trained on the job. Being a contributor or staffer of the school paper, for instance, trains you edit your work repeatedly before passing it to your editor. If you become editor, you will then have the task of reading through your peers’ work. The drama club also needs people to write scripts and lines for the actors so being a member for that clique also helps. Helping out with the yearbook and other school publications would definitely give you experience that you can bank on later on.
- Be a wide reader. Proofreading doesn’t only require a deft understanding of grammar; it is also to your advantage if you can display a vast array of knowledge outside of your expertise. Proofreaders read through a lot of write-ups and they could range from familiar to really odd topics. Knowing the basics of the sciences and the arts, as well as having a handle of references in pop culture could be a great tool in crystallizing the thought and ideas behind every sentence.
- Establish your methodology. Proofreaders have a certain way of writing and editing. Special symbols, abbreviations and colors of ink are often used as convention to hasten the editing process. Since this is essentially like learning a new language altogether, this might need some time getting used to.
- Study and train. There are colleges and schools that offer courses in proofreading. Aside from giving you the education regarding the finer points of editing and notation, enrolling in a program also gives you the leverage to put such an achievement in your resume. This would make you very competitive in your future career.
Just like any field, one needs to devote oneself to a life of learning to continue improving and growing as a professional. Reading books on the salient points of proofreading in your spare time would definitely set you to speed.