What is Proofreading?

By: Tanisha Sethi

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Proofreading is the act of reading a text for the express purpose of identifying, correcting and correcting errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting.These markings are made to ensure that the writing complies with conventional standards for the language in which it is written (e.g. Standard English).

The proofreading definition is understood across regions, regardless of the language of the writing. Proofreading is the last step in the writing process. If asked, “What is proofreading?” or for the proofreading meaning, a common response would be to describe an editor. Similar to editing, proofreading is part of the revision process.

However, where editing focuses on the entire piece and can involve large changes to the structure and/or content of the writing, proofreading means to focus on the small details that impact the clarity of the writing. Proofreading is what is necessary for a piece of writing to be considered finished and ready for publication.

Proofreading Symbols

The process of proofreading makes use of a variety of symbols that represent errors that exist in the writing or changes that need to be made to the writing in order for it to meet conventional standards. These symbols are universally known and each is accepted to represent a specific change that needs to be made by the author.

They are also used so that edits can be marked quickly within the space provided on the page (made directly on the written work). For example, if an author forgot to capitalize the first letter of a person’s name, a proofreader would mark this with three small lines underneath the letter that should be capitalized. This symbol is much easier to write and to fit in the space on the page than the word “capitalize”. Proofreading marks or symbols may be placed in the margins of the paper or within the text.

Proofreading Abbreviations

Similar to proofreading symbols, there are proofreading abbreviations used in the editing process which indicate specific changes that need to be made to a piece of writing. These proofreading abbreviations are shortened forms of specific written feedback (words or phrases) from the proofreader to the author that suggest changes that need to be made. These proofreading abbreviations are commonly understood by both people to represent larger suggestions. Common proofreading abbreviations generally reference issues that need to be resolved which will require more than the insertion or deletion of a punctuation mark or letter/word. These include:

SP = Spelling Error
Frag = Sentence Fragment
RO = Run-on Sentence
S/V = Subject/Verb Agreement Problem
T = Verb Tense Problem

Spelling and Grammar

One of the primary purposes of proofreading is to identify and fix spelling and grammar mistakes within a piece of writing. These mistakes can make it difficult for a reader to clearly understand the intended meaning of the writer. At minimum, it requires extra effort from the reader to decipher the intended word, phrase, or sentence. This is in conflict with the purpose of writing, which is clear communication.

Spelling and grammar problems can also contribute to a reader becoming confused or misunderstanding essential parts of the writing. Additionally, these mistakes can cause a lack of confidence for readers in the authority or expertise of the author, which can cloud the message of the writing and therefore damages, impacts, reduces, or eliminates the openness of the reader.

One specific type of misspelling that commonly occurs are mistakes with heterographs. Heterographs are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things. Common examples of these include their/there/they’re and two/to/too. Because a piece of writing is read and not heard, it is essential that writers use the correct word so as not to confuse their message.

By: Tanisha Sethi

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