Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

Why there's no such thing as 'just a quick proofread'

Posted on 8th April 2015

I've received quite a few queries lately from potential clients saying that a file is generally in good shape and that it 'just needs a quick check', usually implying two things:

  1. that the work can be done quickly; and
  2. that it will just involve checking spelling and grammar and that's 'all'.

Unfortunately, the nature of proofreading is such that doing it quickly can lead to mistakes being missed (or worse still, being introduced) – checking a file for spelling, grammar and punctuation, not just when it comes to right/wrong but also dealing with inconsistencies, takes time, and speeding that process up puts the end result in jeopardy.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you'll often see examples of 'confusables' I've come across in work; these can include transposed letters (e.g. from and form), similar letters being used (e.g. that and than) and homophones (e.g. compliment and complement or, recently, naval and navel). Most spelling checkers won't pick up on these as the words exist in their own right, and if I speed up my reading pace, the chances are I will miss them too.

There are a lot of blogs and articles about getting a service that is fast, good and cheap and how you can pick two of the three but you can't get all three. Though this may apply to many industries, I personally find the option of 'fast' a difficult one for my line of work – it's all relative but there is such a thing as too fast.

In relation to issue 2 above, the scope of proofreading can be increased when work requires more changes, some people now calling it a proof-edit as the work overlaps with copy-editing, but I don't think it's possible to reduce the scope of the work in 99% of cases. For this reason, I don't offer a 'proofreading light' service as I wouldn't be happy omitting some of the general checks I do for all projects.

I don't deny that I use a variety of macros and software in addition to Word's spelling checker to help make sure I don't miss anything but just running those checks wouldn't come anywhere near a proofread, and there's no middle ground between running those tests and me proofreading the file, letter for letter and word for word.

I know that print schedules can be fixed and turnaround times can be tight (my in-house work at a magazine company proved that) so I always endeavour to help find a workable solution for all parties, but planning the proofreading stage in advance and asking for quotes on how long something will take (as well as what it will cost) will help ensure the best result for you.

Written by Kate Haigh.