The proofreader's role.

It is important for you to understand your role as a proofreader. You must not act outside of your role without clearing it with the author or supervisor.

Your role is to make sure that your own writing and the writing of others contain no errors in the following:

  1. additions
  2. citation format
  3. consistency
  4. formatting
  5. grammar
  6. numbers and calculations
  7. omissions
  8. punctuation
  9. typing


Do not edit.

Editing means changing the style, sentence structure, or organization of the paragraphs and overall document. You must not edit unless you have the author's permission to act as an editor. If you do have permission to edit, make sure you understand the depth and scope of your editing abilities for the particular assignment.

  1. Do not change sentence structure. You may see sentences that you would like to write differently, but unless you have an agreement with the author to do so, do not rewrite sentences. Normally, do not make changes in words or sentences in legal documents.

  2. Do not reorganize. If you feel that the ideas are out of order, point that out to the author. You should not reorganize the document or paragraphs.

  3. Correct errors only. The style of a document may be stiff or difficult to follow, but your role is not to edit. Unless something is clearly a proofreading error, do not make changes in the manuscript.  


What to do when you discover errors:

  1. If you are proofreading someone else's writing, avoid changing the text.

  2. If you discover an error in content, point out the error to the author, but do not change the error.

  3. If you notice an accuracy error, check with the author to determine the correct entry. Do not guess or use your "instinct."


Allow sufficient time for proofreading.

Highly accurate proofreading takes time. If your time is limited, spend more on those documents in which accuracy is critical.

If you have more time available in your office, allocate it to proofreading because of its importance to the office or division.


Use a proofreading mindset.

When you set about the task of proofreading, shift into the proofreading mindset. The proofreading mindset requires the following:

  1. Take a serious attitude toward proofreading and a critical attitude toward all written communication. Do not permit errors to pass by you.

  2. Assume that there are errors in the document. Your job is to find them. Do not be tolerant of anything but perfection. Be skeptical of anything that might be incorrect. Assume that anyone else typing or working with the manuscript has made errors that you must find. Even the best writers make mistakes.

  3. When you are ready, decide to go into the proofreading mindset. Yes, it requires concentration and mental energy to stay in the proofreading mindset, but let your mind know that you won't be forcing it to concentrate for an unending period.

  4. If you lose concentration, pause, then move back into the proofreading mindset before continuing. Don't allow your mind to wander in other directions. Eventually, you will condition yourself to stay in the proofreading mindset until you decide to leave it.

  5. If you have a distraction, stop, take care of the distraction, and then continue. Don't try to proofread while you are distracted. Mark the place where you stopped so you are sure to return to the right spot.


Establish a proofreading area:

  1. Have a place where you normally do your proofreading.

  2. The place should be well-lit and have a clear, flat area on which you can lay the manuscript.

  3. Eliminate as many distractions as possible. You can't control office noise, but you can turn off your radio or choose to proofread in an office that is quieter and more secluded. You may need to close your office door to prevent interruptions.

  4. Have someone answer your phone while you proofread in a secluded area.

  5. Consider asking someone to assist in proofreading. Another set of eyes will locate things you may miss.


Have proofreading tools handy.

Within arm's reach, in plain sight, have the following:

  1. Reading glasses (Consider trying the magnifying spectacles available in drugstores. You may be surprised at how they improve your ability to see print.)
  2. A ruler
  3. Colored pencils
  4. A calculator
  5. Standard dictionary
  6. Strunk and White, Elements of Style
  7. Chicago Manual of Style
  8. Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law
  9. MLA Style Manual