So you’ve decided that a professional copyeditor or proofreader is someone you need in your life and you know the difference between the two. How can you make sure you have a positive experience from proofreading and copyediting services and achieve what you intend to?
In this post, we take a look at key aspects to consider when working with editors and proofreaders, from when they should step in to what they need from you to be able to do the best possible job.
Preparation is key
Once you’ve decided to involve an expert editor or proofreader in your project, it’s worth taking a moment to give your new ally as much information as you can about what they’re working on. Every detail helps! At Tate & Clayburn, before our editorial team gets going, we always ask a few key questions.
- What’s the background to the project? Any context that you can provide is incredibly useful, from why the text is being written in the first place to any existing documents or resources it’s based on or refers to. This kind of context informs many of the decisions that your editor will make as they work on your document.
- Who’s your reader? This has a huge impact on the most effective way to write and present your text. A general reader has very different needs from a specialist – especially if the topic is a technical or complex one – and your editor will bear this in mind in aspects such as the language used and the extent to which concepts are explained. By the proofreading stage, these aspects of the text should already be in place, but a good proofreader will still keep an eye out for anomalies that may have crept in, so readership is a key piece of information for them too.
- Where will the text be published or posted? If it’s destined for a website, for example, it often makes sense for the language to be consistent with the existing content, and it’s part of your editor’s job to make sure that’s the case.
- Will your readers expect or prefer British English, US English or some other variety? One of the key elements of proofreading and editing services is checking your spelling, vocabulary and punctuation to make sure you’ve used your chosen variety of English consistently throughout.
- Does your company, publisher or institution have any specific requirements (or ‘style guidelines’) that you’re expected to follow? If so, a professional proofreader or editor will implement these. Some style guides are long and complex, but they’re second nature to an editorial expert, who’ll carry out systematic checks to ensure that your text achieves consistency on these points.
So, we’d recommend that – whoever you choose to edit and proofread your work – you approach them armed with the above information to get the best result.
It’s all about the timing
Every text goes through some kind of process before it ends up in its reader’s hands. That process can range from the ultra simple (a quick readthrough of a document for internal use, where the stakes are low and the need for speed and efficiency is paramount) to the very complex (such as a thorough evaluation of a corporate report that will be seen by a large number of high-profile stakeholders, where every last detail needs to be just so). So where (and when!) does a copyeditor or proofreader come in?
If a document is going through graphic design or typesetting, the answer is simple: copyediting comes before design and proofreading comes after. There’s no point in spending time perfecting the layout and formatting until any extensive changes to the text have been made, so the editor must step in at an early stage. Then, once design and layout are complete, a proofreader picks up any final errors and highlights problems that have cropped up along the way. (This is where the term ‘proofreading’ comes from: in a traditional publishing setting, a ‘proof’ is a version of a document that’s supplied immediately before printing or publication for the purpose of checking that everything is as it should be.)
Of course, sometimes there’s no design or typesetting element. If you’re preparing a cover letter for a job application, you’re unlikely to have a design team on hand, and often our clients just want us to do what’s needed for a text to be the best it can be before they submit it to a publisher, go live with it on their website or send it out to their mailing list. Even in these cases, it can be useful to include an early copyediting step and a final proofread, to offer you support throughout the process of reworking your text.
Whatever you’re working on, we’re always happy to chat to you about your project and advise you on how to schedule our proofreading and copyediting services to get the most out of them.
Choose your people carefully
Not every job is worth forking out for. Sometimes there isn’t time for professional proofreading and copyediting services and the stakes simply aren’t high enough to warrant it. But for any text that’s setting out to achieve an important aim, details matter. When you really need peace of mind, we’re firm believers in getting the experts in. We don’t usually let just anyone mess around with our wiring, plumb in our appliances or cut our hair, after all, and the same goes for writing. Our expert editors and proofreaders are hand-picked for their linguistic prowess, their experience and their attention to detail, so they’ll quickly see what’s needed and do what it takes to help your writing achieve its aims.
If you need support for an important project or are keen to see how much value a professional editor or proofreader could add to your writing, check out our copyediting and proofreading services, take a look at some of the recent projects we’ve worked on or simply drop us a line.