Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

What am I paying for?

Posted on 17th July 2015

In a slight follow-up to my last blog, and because I've lately heard a few other proofreaders wondering why clients aren't accepting their quotes, I thought I'd write this blog to show potential clients some of what goes into the proofreading process and therefore why it can't be done in a hurry and why the quotes vary.

1. It is not the same as reading for pleasure.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch [sic] at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.
(Source: http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/people/matt.davis/cmabridge/)

Most people can read and understand the above but needless to say, most of it is wrong. If we speed-read when proofreading, we will also see the words we think we should see and will miss typos and homonyms because we're going too fast. This means that though you may be able to read X,000 words per hour, a proofreader will be much slower because they will read every letter and take note of every punctuation mark. I have worked on files where I got through 800 words in an hour (admittedly that turned out to be a copy-edit and not a proofread) and I have also worked through fantastic prose at about 7,000 words per hour. This is also why I (and most other proofreaders) ask to see a sample before quoting.

2. It is not just about typos.

Though picking up on typos is obviously part of the job, that's not the whole job. Are spellings consistent? Is the formatting standardised? Have you used -t or -ed to form certain past tenses and if there's a mix, is that intentional? Are capitals consistent? Have you used single or double quote marks and is punctuation inside or outside, or a valid mix? Are the tenses consistent? What have you italicised, or not? Have you got spaces between numbers and units? Are numbers written out or do you use digits?

The above isn't a comprehensive list of what a proofreader checks but it hopefully shows that there's more to it than just running a spelling checker and glancing over the file.

3. We do have technological assistance.

When you employ a plumber, you expect them to have the necessary equipment to do the job. Because proofreading might seem like something anyone can do with their home PC, I don't think it's always clear what costs we may incur. Some proofreaders may not have the latest software, big monitor, recent training or up-to-date manuals and it's up to you as the client to determine who you want working on your files. Many proofreaders I know, including myself, pay for specialist software and download and learn to use macros to help catch errors and inconsistencies. These programs won't replace us (yet, though who knows what science fiction will become fact in the future) but they act as extra checks to make sure things haven't slipped through. For example, I swear by a macro that picks up proper nouns, something that spelling checkers often don't do. These aids help ensure you get the best final product but they also cost money and time to learn to use correctly.

I'm not in a cartel and I don't deny that you might get a great service from the lowest bidder or an awful service from the highest bidder, but making price the sole determiner in who you choose to do the work isn't always going to lead to the best outcome: as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

Written by Kate Haigh.