Hello, I’m Zara and I have worked in publishing for 12 years. I am a trained proof-reader and a Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editors & Proofreaders (CIEP).

Proofreading will be the last stage your book goes through, after editing and layout. It is always done last to catch any errors the editor may have missed; the typesetter accidentally introduced, such as widows and orphans; or the typesetter forgot to do, such as add a final illustration.

Here are the top five reasons why you must ask a professional proof-reader to check through your book, not your Auntie Gladys, even if she does love reading!

REASON 1          Catching spelling and grammatical errors

This may seem obvious to check but errors can still slip in. Do you know every rule about grammar and punctuation? The English language is constantly changing, with new words being created, and new usages of words. A proof-reader’s job is to keep track of all these new rules and make sure your book complies with them.

Spelling and grammar checkers are a useful tool but do not be reliant on them – they will not pick up everything. Grammarly is a great free download, but it often uses US spellings, which could go against your publisher’s house style. The proof-reader will make sure the spelling, grammar and punctuation are consistent with that of the publisher’s house style, such as whether a word ends in ‘-ise’ or ‘-ize’.

REASON 2          Author’s closeness to text

After working on their text for a lengthy period, authors have a closeness and a familiarity with their work, which blinds them from seeing the flaws. The eyes of a proofreader are a fresh pair of eyes. Proofreaders are detached from the text and will be able to spot mistakes and inconsistencies more easily.

When we read, our brain interprets what it expects or wants to read, not what is there, so a fresh pair of eyes is essential. Take this for example:

FI YUO CNA RAED TIHS, YUOR BAIRN SI TCIRKNIG YOU

The mistakes are obvious, but you didn’t have trouble reading what it was supposed to say, did you? If you can read that with such blatant errors, can you imagine trying to catch the errors in your own work, where errors may not be so obvious to you?

REASON 3          Structure and layout

This is something that a lot of people do not look at when checking their work, instead reading the main body of the text rather than looking at the book as a whole. A proof-reader will look at everything in the final typeset document and is the last person to do so, so will notice if the headings and subheadings are not set in the same font, or if a page number has not been added on the Contents page.

REASON 4          Photographs and illustrations

A proof-reader will check illustrations, graphs etc. along with captions separately to make sure these are accurate and in the correct places.  

Photographs and illustrations are often added at a later stage in the production of the book. Your proof-reader will check these have all been added, and not forgotten.

REASON 5          References and contents page

Due to copyright, it is vitally important that you have correctly listed your references to acknowledge the author of the original work. There are certain ways to set out these references, usually depending on which way your publisher prefers, but all the details must be listed correctly so that your readers can easily locate the sources.

Problems can occur when indexing references within the text, usually with the reference number being incorrect, and these errors can be hard to spot. Your proof-reader will make sure these are listed accurately, and conform to the publisher’s house style.

Once your book has been worked on by both a professional editor and proof-reader, you will be safe in the knowledge that your book will be a perfect, error-free book, which will give readers hours of pleasure.

Think wisely – get a good proofreader.

Thank you to Brenda Dempsey of Book Brilliance Publishing for allowing me to guest blog on her website.

Zara Thatcher, Proofreader