online proofreading course

How to Proofread Professionally – Top 10 Qualities of a Proofreader

A proofreader’s job is to improve the quality of a text and add to the reading experience. They are the heroes of text with zero errors and inconsistencies. Although their work is and should remain invisible to the reader, that’s certainly not the case for the client. And that’s because the proofreader is the safety net, the parachute that opens, the umbrella that doesn’t leak. In a nutshell, a great proofreader is pretty much invincible. If that appeals to you, or intrigues you, then ask yourself: Do I have what it takes? What do I need to be a great proofreader?

Which of these qualities do you already have and which do you need to improve or develop?

How to Proofread Professionally – What Skills or Qualities do You Need?

1. Are you well-read and widely read?

Most proofreaders love reading and love to read a broad range of texts – different genres and in different formats, from print to digital. This doesn’t necessarily mean reading everything uncritically, however. But, proofreaders want to continually expand their knowledge, awareness, and sensitivity; and they want to keep up to date with interesting and relevant issues and topics.

2. Are you detail-oriented?

Proofreading is different to reading for pleasure, where you can skip words or even sentences and still be able to gauge the meaning of a text.

When you proofread, you need to read slowly, carefully, focusing on every word, every sentence, every element, every part, and every page; and you need to carry this focus and consistency across all the pages.

3. Do you have endurance and stamina?

Can you pay attention to detail over extended periods of time? Stopping and starting a proofreading job can be very disruptive and an unproductive use of time. Proofreaders most often need to sit (or stand) for long periods checking many versions of pages and corrections, again and again. Proofreading is not a once-off process – it’s a marathon, not a sprint!

4. Are you organised and meticulous?

Can you work in a structured, systematic, and orderly way? Proofreaders have a plan and a strategy to help them check specific things and follow through in a methodical way.

5. Are you disciplined?

Can you manage your time efficiently so that you can get tasks done and meet deadlines?

Many proofreaders set themselves incremental targets with manageable milestones, for example, proofreading five pages an hour, or holding off on that coffee break for another 15 minutes until they have reached a target.

Proofreaders choose their best time of day to work depending on their body clock – for some this is the early morning, for others it is late into the night.

They limit the distractions in their environment, and maintain a clear mind when a deadline is looming.

how to proofread professionally

6. Are you proficient in English or the language in which you will work?

Proofreaders need a sound knowledge of grammar, spelling, and punctuation so that they can quickly pick up and correct errors in words and sentences.

On the other hand, proofreading goes beyond language and includes checking formatting and layout – how the words and paragraphs and images appear on the page. Proofreaders identify and fix inconsistencies, such as too many spaces between words or too few spaces between lines.

7. Are you computer literate?

Unless you proofread on printed-out pages (hard copy), you need to know how to use basic software programmes, such as Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat. You also need to know how to use the editing and marking-up tools in these programmes. And remember, Spellchecker and Grammarly and AI are just tools that don’t necessarily “read” context – so don’t rely on them. As a first check, they are helpful, but beyond that they cannot replace the proofreader’s eagle eye!

8. Can you work independently, but also as part of a team?

Proofreading is generally a solitary job. However, you are also usually part of an editorial team and so need to be able to collaborate with others. Also, you need to be able to communicate tactfully with the author/s, suggesting changes and revisions, but ultimately respecting their style, tone, and voice rather than rewriting their piece in your style, tone, and voice.

9. Do you have the ever-critical eye and mindset of the intelligent proofreader?

Like all editors, proofreaders are critical thinkers and readers. They are creative and constructive problem solvers who can take appropriate action to apply solutions.

10. Do you take pride in your work?

A great proofreader is willing to go the extra mile, offering an exceptional service to make the end product as great as it can possibly be. As one proofreader commented, “My job is to add the lipstick and gloss to the text”.


Of course, there are many other qualities and characteristics that make a gold-standard proofreader – reading mindfully, being aware of sensitivity issues which might cause offence, doing research to check fixes and solutions, and acting ethically. A final quality worth mentioning is knowing when to stop making changes, changing only what needs to be changed, and leaving well enough alone!

WordWise Online Proofreading Course – The Skilled Proofreader

If you’re looking for an outstanding online proofreading course, you have come to the right place. Our online proofreading course will equip you with all the technical skills and know-how to proofread professionally, whether it be as the side hustle you have been looking for or on a full-time basis. 

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