Copyediting and Proofreading: Lesson 1: Introduction

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A new career or just brushing up on essential skills

Whether you may be interested in starting a new career that offers flexible hours and lets you work from your own home or just want to look as professional as you can in whatever you do, basic copyediting and proofreading skills are a must. The applications are extremely commonplace and after reviewing a few examples, you may realize you already utilize rudimentary copyediting and proofreading skills throughout your daily routine without realizing it.

Workplace: It goes without saying that in the modern business world, competition is a matter of course. The fact is that there are not enough jobs to go around and plenty of people with just the same qualifications as yours. So, if you wish to hang on to your position come employee review time, it’s really in your best interest to do everything you can to display your experience and professionalism. A few extra minutes using copywriting and proofreading skills to catch errors before sending out a report or memo can make the difference between a promotion and being the victim of the recession.

Emails: Content is only a fraction of an email. When you are sending out news of a birth, the eulogy of a loved one, the story of how your children landed that scholarship that will propel them into the beginning of a glorious future, don’t you think it deserves the few extra minutes it takes for a quick review? Whether it’s a friendly message or an attempt to get back together with an estranged relative, correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and syntax reflects well on you and subconsciously suggests to others that you consider them worthy of both your time and respect.

Correspondence: Once, writing letters was an art. People would spend days planning a letter to a good friend and hours composing and revising it. Today we are reduced to 255 characters or less and leet speak. Tell me, when Charles Dickens said, “A person who can't pay gets another person who can't pay to guarantee that he can pay. Like a person with two wooden legs getting another person with two wooden legs to guarantee that he has got two natural legs. It don't make either of them able to do a walking-match,” would anyone have taken him seriously if it had come out as, “4 p3r50n whO c@n't p4y ge7s @n0th3r person whO c4n't p4y 7o g|_|4r@n73e 7h@7 h3 c4n p4y. 1|k3 @ p3r50n w|th two wooden 136s 63t7|n6 4n07her per5On w|7h 7wo wOod3n legs to g|_|4ran73a that h3 h@5 gOt tw0 natur@1 13gs. |t d0n'7 m4ke 3|7her Of th3m 481e to d0 4 w4lk|n6-m@tch”? Have a little self-respect and do it right next time you’ve got something to say.

Web Pages and Hubs: If you’re reading this, you've probably read through a lot of different websites (if not create them). In all likelihood, you’ve caught quite a few typos and formatting errors in your time surfing the web. Think it’s because the author is lazy or failed English? Nope. Most of the time typos go unnoticed by an author because when we write something, it exists as much in our minds as it does in type, and when we as authors read our own work, we see the perfected copy instead of what’s really there. Copyediting and proofreading skills can teach you how to catch your own errors and lend your work a greater sense of credibility.

Finding Employment: Chances are you’re unemployed like the rest of us. If not, you want a better job. Well, proofreading and copyediting can take up as little or as much time out of your day as you like in order to supplement your income. Also, a job search will be immeasurably helped if the resumes you send out en masse are spelled and formatted correctly.

What is Proofreading?

It is a frequent misconception that proofreading and copyediting are synonyms. One sure fire way an employer tells that an applicant has had no formal training whatsoever is when said applicant claims to be both a proofreader and copyeditor or uses the terms interchangeably. Needless to say, the applicant who makes this mistake is not going to be hired.

 

Proofreading is the act of reading through the final work before it goes to print, known as the proof. These proofs have already undergone all the alterations and changes the author is prepared to make. As such, a proofreader scans text for errors in syntax, grammar, and punctuation. Likewise, formatting and spacing errors are watched for.

What is Copyediting?

Copyediting is done with a late draft supplied by the author, prior to the author’s final rewrites. A copyeditor’s job is more in-depth than a proofreader’s, typically meaning they receive a higher rate of pay. But with more pay comes greater responsibility. Should a copyeditor fail to do his or her job in catching major issues with an author’s work, the copyeditor is to blame, not the author.

 

Copyeditors look for all the same errors that proofreader’s do. In addition, they fact check, look for possible legal issues that the publication of the written work might cause (seditious libel lawsuits can be brought against the publisher and not just the author in most cases), ensure the writing adheres to the style espoused by the publisher, rework sentences for readability, suggest deletion of redundant material, and otherwise try to polish and streamline the work for the best flow.

 

We’ll go into greater depth on the responsibilities, tools, and procedure of both copyeditors and proofreaders in later lessons.

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Comments 7 comments

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

One thing copy editors do that proofreaders don't do, is read for context, continuity, and versimilitude.

This is a great example of a published work where the copy editor missed:

In Robert Louis Stevenson's "Robinson Crusoe", the title character goes into the water naked, and when he comes out, he puts his hands in his pockets. Yuh???

I must say (though many will think I should get a life, or something) that I wish the publishers on HubPages would just take a little time to proofread for grammar, punctuation, spelling and capitilization, before publishing. Some people are very good; others are careless enough to where it affects how well the article reads, and makes it difficult to understand.

I'm very glad you published this hub. Thanks!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

PS--I took the proofreading test and missed about six out of the thirty errors. So maybe I shouldn't talk!


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

I'm going to try for a series. Haven't decided how long yet. This is actually a petty act of revenge for me. I paid to take a course in proofreading and copyediting, drawn by their promise that they would give me all I needed to know to pull down work. I was hoping for actual business leads, info on rates to charge, putting together invoices, drafting proposals when bidding for work, that kinda thing. Turns out all they did was present what you can find for free online in a condensed form and charged for the privalege. So I've taken their information, cut out all the unecessary buzzwords and crud, and rewritten it so at least a few people won't fall victim to their shoddy business practices.


LiftedUp profile image

LiftedUp 5 years ago from Plains of Colorado

I considered pursuing work in proofreading, and even editing, but other things were presented to me and I followed those. Never have I lost my love for words and correct form, however, and I appreciate the challenge you have put forth to other writers. Thanks, Jarn.


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States

This is my favorite part: "Whether it’s a friendly message or an attempt to get back together with an estranged relative, correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and syntax reflects well on you and subconsciously suggests to others that you consider them worthy of both your time and respect."

That said, I caught a very few errors you didn't. ;-)

#1 - In paragraph headed "Workplace": "It goes without saying that in the modern business world, competition is a matter of course." Please divide "in" and "the".

#2 - In paragraph headed "Web Pages and Hubs": "If you’re reading this, you probably read through a lot of different websites (if not create them).In all likelihood..." First, enter a space between the sentences. Next, say "you've probably read..." instead of just "you".

If you don't publish this comment, I'll understand. I just thought that this hub should not go uncorrected. You're welcome to come tear any of mine apart now, as always. :-D


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

For the incorrect spaces, that tends to happen when I transfer text from Word to the site's editor. I'll fix it up. And thanks. I've no problem accepting my mistakes. That's the only way to improve, though I do wish I made less of them.

Glad you liked the part about the estranged relative. I was going to say something about the importance of proofing one's suicide note so as to be taken seriously, but with how many strange people are in the world, I was afraid someone would think it wasn't just a poorly made joke.


KarenHiatt 4 years ago

You know you're a born copy editor when you add correcting notes to the book you're reading on your Kindle.

And when I follow up with an e-mail to the author, correcting his/her grammar ... I think it makes me a COMPULSIVE proofer (;-)

Glad to know I'm an editor when I find factual/continuity glitches.

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