Professional Editorial Standards: E. Standards for Proofreading

E. Standards for Proofreading

Proofreading is examining material after layout or in its final format to correct errors in textual and visual elements.

A professional proofreader demonstrates a mastery of Part A: The Fundamentals of Editing and meets the following standards.

General Practices

E1  Recognize the advantages and disadvantages of various proofreading strategies (e.g., reading on screen or on paper, reading with a partner, increasing screen magnification) and apply the appropriate strategy for the material and the scope of the project.

E2  Adhere to the editorial style sheet for the material and update it, if necessary. If no style sheet is provided, prepare one and update it as proofreading progresses.

E3  In the first round of proofreading, read the material word by word and scrutinize visual elements as the task requires, comparing with previous copy if supplied.

E4  In each subsequent round of proofreading, refrain from reading the entire text (unless instructed to do so) but check that all changes have been made as requested and that they do not introduce new problems (e.g., check line and page breaks, text flow, visual elements, table of contents, navigation bar).

E5  At all proofreading stages, flag or correct egregious errors but refrain from undertaking structural, stylistic, or copy editing tasks unless authorized to do so.

E6  Whenever possible, proofread the material in its intended medium.

Error Correction

E7  Understand English spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and correct errors (e.g., lack of subject–verb agreement, misplaced modifiers, incorrect pronoun case) within the limits of the proofreading role.

E8  Ensure that the first proof contains all the copy and any additional elements prepared for layout (e.g., all paragraphs, visual and audio elements, additional textual elements such as captions or acknowledgements).

E9  Flag typographical and formatting errors and irregularities, paying special attention to problematic areas (e.g., wrong font, widows and orphans, ill-fitting text, page breaks, rivers and lakes, non-English words, table and figure formatting).

E10  Check consistency and accuracy of elements in the material (e.g., cross-references, running heads, captions, web page title tags, links, metadata).

E11  Check end-of-line word divisions and mark bad breaks for correction.

E12  Understand design specifications and ensure they have been followed throughout (e.g., alignment, heading styles, line length, space around major elements, rules, image resolution, appearance of links).


E13  Recognize and flag matters that may affect later stages of production (e.g., page cross-references; placement of visual elements; alterations that will change layout, indexing, or web navigation).

E14  Query, or correct if authorized to do so, inconsistencies (e.g., in spelling, punctuation, facts, visual elements, navigation elements, metadata, other content that may not appear on a published web page). Use judgment about the degree to which such queries and corrections are called for.

E15  Incorporate alterations from authors and other individuals, using judgment and tact. Where comments conflict, use judgment to mark appropriate alterations.

E16  Choose from among various options the changes at each stage of proofreading that will prove the least costly or the most appropriate, given the production process, schedule, medium, desired quality, and type of publication (e.g., contact information must be corrected but inconsistent capitalization might be left as is). 


E17  When working onscreen, use an agreed-upon markup system (e.g., PDF markup tools). When working on paper, mark clearly and use standard proofreading marks unless another system has been agreed upon. 

E18  Communicate more detailed instructions to the appropriate person (e.g., designer, project supervisor) as needed for the sake of clarity.

E19  Distinguish between and mark differently printer’s, designer’s, or programmer’s errors and author’s or editor’s alterations, if requested.

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