In my recent post about ten tips for proofreading your own writing, number ten was to call in a professional if you lack the confidence or the time to do it yourself. Googling 'proofreader' will throw up more options than you'll know what to do with, so it helps to think about your requirements in order to narrow down the field before contacting anyone.
1 Does my proofreader need specialist subject knowledge?
This may be more necessary in some fields than others. If you are writing about a niche academic subject it may be absolutely essential that you hire a specialist editor who understands the concepts you are discussing and the subject-specific language that is involved. This also goes for law, medicine, maths and statistics, where small errors could have serious consequences and in-depth knowledge is necessary to spot them.
On the other hand, if you are writing for a general audience it can be a great help to work with an editor who isn’t from your field to make sure that your writing is accessible. They will ask questions from the perspective of your readers in order to clarify your meaning. Sometimes we can forget how much we know about a subject and make assumptions about what others will know. Your editor can help you pitch at the right level for your audience.
2 Does my proofreader need to know what type of content I am writing?
Depending on what you’re writing, you may want to hire a proofreader or editor who has experience with the type of content you are producing.
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Your editor should be able to reassure you that they have experience with what you are writing. For example, some editors work exclusively with fiction, others focus on academic journals, still others have a broader portfolio of work covering several different areas.
3 What type of file should I send my proofreader?
How you will be sending your writing to your proofreader or editor is an important consideration.
Almost all editors will be happy to receive a Word file which they can work on, usually using Track Changes to show you their edits.
Proofreaders usually work on files which have been typeset, so a PDF will be the common file type here. This means that your proofreader can check that headings, layout, cross-references, the table of contents, page numbers, images, tables and captions are all correct, as well as the spelling, grammar and punctuation of your content.
If you are working in InDesign or LaTeX, you will want to be sure that your editor has the necessary software and is confident using it and editing in it.
You may be a hard copy diehard, preferring to write in good old-fashioned pen and paper. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and some editors still prefer to work in this way, going as far as printing out electronic files they receive in order to work on paper.
The important thing is to establish this early on, so that you editor knows what to expect, and whether they are the right person to work with you. For example, I don’t work in LaTeX and have only had very basic InDesign training, so I wouldn’t be the best person to work on files of this type.
4 Does my proofreader need to be local?
In today’s world of instant global communication, location need not be an issue. I work with clients from Mexico to Hong Kong, and all points in between, and it doesn’t make any difference to the work I do for them.
Don’t assume that you need a local proofreader or editor – the best person for you may be hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away.
However, location may matter to you. You may prefer to support a local business, or you might want to be able to meet your editor face to face to discuss your requirements and the progress of your project.
What comes next?
These four points are a good start in the process of finding a proofreader or editor, but what are your next steps? My next blog posts look at where to find one and how to tell if they are the real deal.
If you've a question about finding a proofreader or editor, I'd be happy to answer it. Just pop it in the comments below.