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Blogs about proofreading

Note that these entries are in date sequence – oldest first.

How to work as a proofreader Posted on 3 June 2016 by James Cowan in Proofreading

I was asked to write on this title, but I am not too sure about writing a "how-to" for this; anyone in the trade will almost certainly devise their own ways of working. All I am competent to do is to tell how I work as a proofreader. Until I see the document, I have been taking the client’s word for its size, and assumed its quality ... Read more

How to become a proofreader Posted on 14 June 2016 by James Cowan in Proofreading

Becoming a proofreader is not actually that difficult. You just call yourself one. Being a good proofreader, and thus getting repeat business, is something entirely different. Being a proofreader means you are going to be checking other people’s writings, correcting the bits that don’t work, suggesting better ways to write some of the stuff they have written ... Read more

Some of the mechanicals of blogging Posted on 15 July 2016 by James Cowan in Blogs about blogging; Proofreading

I am very conscious of the way documents, including emails and blogs, read. And of course, beside the message you want to share, the way you put it together is also a message. So let me explain what I do when I am setting up a blog entry. The most fundamental thing I do is to write it offline, in a word-processor. This gives me ... Read more

Proofreaders – who needs them? Posted on 25 July 2016 by James Cowan in Proofreading

If you are writing for business or profit, then YOU do. That counts OUT people who are writing assignments, or their own diary. It also counts out many contributors to Facebook. But it definitely counts IN people who write any kind of books (particularly the self-publishers; a publisher will get your work proofread for you), articles, theses, all kinds of reports, estimates, quotes, contracts, business letters, press releases, blogs, website content ... Read more

What does proofreading cost? Posted on 4 August 2016 by James Cowan in Proofreading

It depends. Some proofreaders publish their rates, and some do not. We do not. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that what we charge is based on the difficulty of the work we do. That is, on the time we take. Sure, we ask for a word count to base our estimate on, but until we see the work, we only use that as an approximation. There are a lot of things that can affect how hard the job is. It boils down to how well it has ... Read more

Why get your work reviewed? Posted on 24 August 2016 by James Cowan in Proofreading

I have mentioned in earlier blog posts that a writer should get their work checked by someone else before “publishing” it. The word is in inverted commas because the definition depends on the purpose of the manuscript – a quotation is published when it is sent to the client; a blog when it is posted; a magazine article when it is sent to the editor. It’s all very well to check your own work, after letting it settle for a while: you will probably pick up the issues of duplicated words; you may pick up grammar, punctuation and word-choice ... Read more

More art than science Posted on 03 October 2016 by James Cowan in Proofreading

In earlier blogs I have talked of the weirdness of the English language. In this one I want to talk of the "art" of the proofreader’s role. To recap, English is not a rule-based language, in the way a programming language is. There is a structure, a template, but there are rarely instances where English is wrong – unlike German, where a verb has to be at the end of a sentence, for example. English is a language based on conventions, not rules, and the conventions can be flouted at any time, provided it fits the context. This is where the proofreader’s art and experience come in. Obviously, if you are going to dispense with a convention, you have to do so with care, or else your meaning may not be ... Read more

Using a proofreading service versus software Posted on 02 November 2016 by James Cowan in Automation; Proofreading

I suppose if you can teach a car to drive itself by learning from how a lot of people drive (although that can lead to questions about how you pick the exemplars), it should be possible to teach software to proofread any manuscript and render it polished and perfect. However, I remain open to conviction. (And the issue of choosing examples remains!) To start with, terms. "Proofreading service" means someone like Perfectly Worded, a group of folks who live in ... Read more

On numbers Posted on 8 February 2017 by James Cowan in English language; Proofreading; Writing

Funny things, numbers. The way you write about them can show you up in an amazing fashion. Let's start with percentages. Everybody knows what a percentage is, it's the proportion of a sample that fits a particular profile. "50% of cars are red" means that fifty out of every hundred cars, half of all cars, are red. No ambiguity here. But wait ... there's more! It is possible, under some circumstances, that the percentage quoted may be larger than 100 – for example ... Read more

Specialist proofreading: fiction vs. business vs. academic Posted on 10 April 2017 by James Cowan in English language; Proofreading

You might think proofreading is proofreading is proofreading. But actually it isn't. Yes, proofreading anything in English has points in common with all other English proofreading, but each subgroup of manuscripts has its own idiosyncrasies. Let's start with what they all share. In earlier blogs I have talked of the way the English language works, and how it is changing. Anything written in English is subject to these influences, and to that extent the proofreader's task is similar ... Read more

Proofreading online versus using a local professional Posted on 30 June 2017 by James Cowan in Proofreading

Where to start? In several earlier blogs I discuss the fact that English is a language not of rules but of conventions, and that the conventions differ between regions. Thus to an American reader, saying "his clothes fitted him well" is at best weird, and at worst wrong, as American for "did fit" is the same as for "do fit", and both are "fit". And though I was born in the UK, I was brought up from the age of ... Read more

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