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Proofreaders — who needs them?

Posted on 25 July 2016 by James Cowan in Proofreading

If you are writing for business or profit, then YOU do. That counts OUT people who are writing assignments, or their own diary. It also counts out many contributors to Facebook. But it definitely counts IN people who write any kind of books (particularly the self-publishers; a publisher will get your work proofread for you), articles, theses, all kinds of reports, estimates, quotes, contracts, business letters, press releases, blogs, website content, advertising copy, brochures, …

Your proofreader will read your manuscript not only as a stranger, with no emotional investment in the document; it bears repeating that someone who did not write a manuscript will see it as it is, not as it was supposed to be. Your proofreader can be that person, in a way that even a relative can't.

And you, as the author, may well learn from the process too; at Perfectly Worded we are strongly in favour of explaining the changes we suggest, and our comments are intended to aid an author in understanding why we made changes that we did. Which may mean that not only will our authors agree with us, when they see why we suggested the change, they may also write a better document next time. At least in the things we suggested they changed this time.

In the following (spell-checked) passage we found more than 30 mistakes (bad sentence structure; wrong word usage; punctuation errors; verb-subject disagreement; verb-tense failures; apostrophe issues). If you didn't find even half of them, YOU NEED TO TALK TO US. And if you found all of them — or some we weren't aware of — please talk to us. We may need to give you some of our work.

After reading a lot of badly written document, it seems to me that the teaching of English is lacking badly in schools. And punctuation is always a week point, with apostrophe's used to make plurals, comas rendering the text meaningful, and all sorts of other awful things. The resources available in tertiary /adult education places seem inadequate to correct these. Some private consultant's run training in things like proof-reading and edits, but even they seem to have misunderstandings abut the meanings of some words - at lest in one workshop I have attend. By the time people retch work, its probably to late to fix the problem of poor teaching, although pier-reviewing is a good way to start. But even then, email will remain an issue. Medial training in reading eth work and in the ooze of the tools available in Word and elsewhere may help. Particularly if people can be trained to right message into word with all the tools and then copy there work into email.

We look forward to hearing from you — even if it's only to ask for the answer sheet. (There really is one, showing all the changes we thought necessary, and with explanatory comments for some of them.)

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