Proofreading: what constitutes the extra mile (1.6km)?

Proofreading: it isn’t what it used to be.

In the olden days, yesteryear and indeed days of yore, proofreading was a very different task to what it has become. Back then, it involved sitting down in front of a paper manuscript with some weighty tomes within arm’s reach for reference—likely a dictionary or two and a thesaurus, be it Roget’s or someone else’s.

Apart from the move to almost exclusively electronic editing, there are two key ways in which proofreading has evolved. First, the research tools available are much richer; and second, clients’ expectations have rightly increased.

Every resource you could ever want is available at your fingertips. If you’re unsure as to the spelling of something, you can check. If you’re adopting an American English style guide, you can validate the American spelling of “artefact”. And you can see what other people think about different from/than/to. The internet offers a wealth of documentation, official and otherwise, helping you improve the document you’re working on.

But the potential for research goes further than this. Way further. Almost every element of a document can be checked now that the internet’s to hand.

In recent documents, we’ve corrected people’s own addresses on their CVs and cover letters. I kid you not. The Royal Mail’s postcode checker allows us to do that in a jiffy. We’ve checked and corrected people’s job titles using LinkedIn, only where appropriate, mind. We’ve corrected the names of hospitals in documents written by those hospitals’ management. And we’ve corrected the product numbers of obscure Cisco routers that appear 180,000 words into a 187,000-word document. I tell you, that was a wonderful feeling!

Now this is the extra mile. We pride ourselves on ensuring that every aspect of a document that can be checked by us is checked by us. We strive to find those wrong postcodes, those wrong product codes and those subtly wrong hospital names. We strive and we thrive on this.

Clients are quite often mesmerised by some of the errors we correct. And I think that’s why they so regularly come back for more.

Posted by Dan, 9 January, 2013 under Life


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