ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Behind every good text is a proofreader

Updated on January 25, 2016

Write first, correct later

Every time you finally think a text is finished, usually it's not and somebody else will notice something that should be improved. That happens because, after spending hours, days, months, even years on a work we just become tired of it and are unable to read every single line again and again. Think about it: years after publishing something you decide to read it again and suddenly you realize there is a mistake or a sentence that sounds quite bad... That happens quite often.

That's why we need some detachment from our own work to improve it. And a proofreading made by another person might be just the detachment we are looking for: that is a fresh mind and a different point of view.

Unfortunately, many writers don't realise how important it is to proofread their work and, specially nowadays that selfpublishing e-books is much easier than before, we come across a lot of mistakes, typos, confused and poorly constructed sentences.

Proofreading is not an easy job

I've been working as a freelance proofreader in Portuguese language for almost three years now. Most of my clients are university students or those who are finishing their master's or PhD's degree. What I find striking about it is that they'll only come after me when their professors tell them to! They usually hand out their papers without any proofreading and, unless they're somehow forced to pay someone to do that, they'll leave it with plenty of mistakes.

I know I don't write perfectly, and things are particularly worse when I'm writing in English, which is not my first language. In Portuguese, I tend to rewrite my stuff a few times before I decide to post it in a blog. So, when it comes to academic work I become a grammar and style freak.

Now that I'm working for other people, I have to set a price for my proofreading work and, well, it can't be cheap. Spending a whole day reading someone else's (sometimes bad) writing can be boring and stressful if you have short deadlines. In fact, there are those papers that one can call incomprehensible and lead me to nothing but despair.

Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot's friendship

The relationship between authors Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot is an interesting case to illustrate the importance of proofreading and editing. Many critics believe that it was Pound's work on T. S. Eliot's manuscripts of The Waste Land that mainly contributed for it becoming a literary masterpiece. The first draft of the epic poem was much longer than the text we know today and Pound suggested significant cuts as well as some changes to it.

In fact, Eliot even decided to dedicate the poem to Ezra Pound himself, calling him "il miglior fabbro", a quote from Dante's Purgatorio, meaning "the better craftsman".

A page of Eliot's work with annotations by Pound.
A page of Eliot's work with annotations by Pound.
Another page with Pound's proofreading and suggestions.
Another page with Pound's proofreading and suggestions.

Tips for a more effective proofreading

There are a few essencial steps one must follow in order to proofread a text, since it is not about merely correcting grammar and spelling mistakes. So, I usually begin by dividing it in chunks - the sizes will depend on the length of the full text. If I have less time and a longer text in front of me, I'll divide it in bigger chunks.

Concentration is key to accomplish a good proofreading, particularly if the writing brings up themes you aren't familiar with. If the text is too long to print and I'm working directly on the computer I close everything else and leave only the windows I'll need, so I won't have distractions.

It's important to have a good dictionary available - whether a printed copy or on your computer. In English, a great website you can visit when writing and proofreading is Thesaurus, a page you can turn into whether you want to check for spelling, usage of a word or to find synonyms.

If you are proofreading and editing your own text, try to do that a few days after writing it. If you proofread immediately after finishing the text you might not pay attention to smaller mistakes. Let your brain rest at least for a day; that will also help you to read it with some detachment.

The Write at Home blog has an incredible checklist for a precise proofreading when it comes to basic essays and papers (picture below). The process for more elaborated texts is quite similar, but the great difference is in the complexity of the work recquired. Just as it happens to writing, practice can also improve your proofreading skills.


Writers' drafts

I always find manuscripts and first drafts of famous books fascinating. Some only have minor changes, but others seem to bring up a whole new text. Looking at proofs and manuscripts of some incredible authors we can realize it takes a lot of editing and rewriting to finally achieve the level of a work of art.

So, here are some notebooks for us to get inspired by...

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Balzac's "Eugénie Grandet": Autograph manuscript and corrected galley proofs signed (1833)Dicken's "Great Expectations" (1861)Orwell's "1984": First paragraph (1949)Joyce's "Ulysses" (1922)Rosa's "Grande Sertão Veredas" (1956): This Brazilian classic has been translated to many languages; in English, it's called "The Devil to Pay in the Backlands"Proust's "A Search for Lost Time: Swann's Way" (1913)Nietzsche's "Ecce homo: Wie man wird, was man ist” (1908)
Balzac's "Eugénie Grandet": Autograph manuscript and corrected galley proofs signed (1833)
Balzac's "Eugénie Grandet": Autograph manuscript and corrected galley proofs signed (1833)
Dicken's "Great Expectations" (1861)
Dicken's "Great Expectations" (1861)
Orwell's "1984": First paragraph (1949)
Orwell's "1984": First paragraph (1949)
Joyce's "Ulysses" (1922)
Joyce's "Ulysses" (1922)
Rosa's "Grande Sertão Veredas" (1956): This Brazilian classic has been translated to many languages; in English, it's called "The Devil to Pay in the Backlands"
Rosa's "Grande Sertão Veredas" (1956): This Brazilian classic has been translated to many languages; in English, it's called "The Devil to Pay in the Backlands"
Proust's "A Search for Lost Time: Swann's Way" (1913)
Proust's "A Search for Lost Time: Swann's Way" (1913)
Nietzsche's "Ecce homo: Wie man wird, was man ist” (1908)
Nietzsche's "Ecce homo: Wie man wird, was man ist” (1908)


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • FreakFran profile imageAUTHOR

      Francine Oliveira 

      2 years ago from Minas Gerais, Brasil

      Hi, Jodah! Thank you for commenting and calling my attention to those ;)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This is a wonderful hub. I too do some proofreading work so I found this very helpful. I especially liked the inclusion of the first drafts of manuscripts by famous authors.

      I did find some errors in your article that you may want to correct, especially as it is about proofreading.

      1. "confuse (confused) and poorly constructed sentences"

      2. "planty (plenty) of mistakes"

      3. "those papaers (paper)"

      4. heading: "Ezra Pound and T.S. Elliot's friendpship (friendship)"


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)