One of the things I enjoy most about the Technical Editing textbook is that it offers clear definitions of key terms. As I have mentioned in past blogs, much of my editing knowledge has been instinctual, developing from interactions and directions given by clients. To see detailed explanations of editing practices has really helped me better understand the actual theories well beyond the loose instructions I’ve absorbed over the years. The explanation of proofreading in chapter thirteen is no exception.
It’s very easy to confuse proofreading with copyediting as this chapter indicates. But proofreading is actually the final step in any document production. Without this essential part of the process, a work may contain needlessly sloppy errors or continuity problems that proofreading could have resolved. Even after the copyediting stage has been completed, other hands may get into the mix and create changes that need to be smoothed over prior to publication. That’s why proofreading is such an essential aspect of preparing the final document.
I think there’s a tendency to discount proofreading’s value after the completion of copyediting. It is often viewed as optional, especially if a client feels his or her corrections are sufficient. But proofreading can catch grammatical as well as overall wording missteps to enhance a piece’s clarity and capacity to communicate effectively.
The textbook also describes three reasons that justify proofreading: accuracy, expense, and credibility. These points demonstrate that by not carefully checking a document, resulting errors can overshadow the piece’s intended value. Not only do unnecessary mistakes waste a client’s investment, they serve to distract the reader from the content itself. Indeed, the reader may easily focus on the oversights rather than appreciating the work’s general message. When an idea is carelessly complicated by overlooked blunders, the whole purpose of the document disappears. This means the benefits of conscientious proofreading cannot be overemphasized.
Since even the smallest inconsistency has an impact on the reader’s experience of a document, I am sensitive to the most minute details. Just an extra, unwarranted space can cause a diversion. So I’m attuned to formatting characteristics as well. My goal as a proofreader is to pave the way for the author to get his or her message across clearly and without any interference. As a whole, I think this is why good proofreading is critical in any document that will find its way to a reader.
While the art of accurate proofreading is invisible by nature, its value cannot be downplayed in the publication process. Unless a skilled proofreader examines a document word-by-word, noticing every facet of the writing, formatting, and even its comprehensive development, the piece may never achieve its intentional effect. For these reasons, a piece of writing should not be published before a proofreader provides a final pass with suggested changes.
Although the writer universally receives credit for a well-received work, the experts involved in crafting this piece are often disregarded. But unless the copyeditor and proofreader insert their expertise into a work, there’s a serious risk that the writing will lack cohesion, contain avoidable errors, and fail to convey its vision to the reader. Therefore, solid proofreading is not a luxury, but a complete necessity for any piece of memorable writing. Indeed, chapter thirteen of this textbook makes the advantages of skilled proofreading very clear to writers and editors alike.