What are the different types of proofreading projects and what do they involve?

Is it really that important for texts to be written correctly without any errors nowadays? Let’s face it – most people have no idea about what’s right and wrong anymore. So why waste all that effort on proofreading, re-reading and a final check prior to printing?


A text full of errors looks sloppy

Anyone who works with words – copywriters, translators, editors – does proofreading in some form. We hope so at least! It’s important to write properly in plain language that’s easy to understand even in something as basic as an email because it shows that you’re polite and respectful. And mistakes are certainly out of the question when it comes to professional texts for clients.

Linguistic errors leave a bad impression and can have serious implications when they appear on company websites, in product brochures, in adverts and in annual reports. Businesses tend to want to come across as competent and professional. However, writing sloppy copy has the exact opposite effect – even when there’s no doubt surrounding the quality of the content itself.

So what exactly does proofreading involve? What are the different types of proofreading projects and how do you go about them?

Related services

As language service providers, there are three main types of proofreading projects we might work on that are all closely related:

  • Proofreading
  • Re-reading
  • Final check

Proofreading is a formal check of a text, which focuses on spelling, grammar, punctuation, typography and consistent formatting. When comparing a translation against the source text for a proofreading assignment, we make sure that it’s accurate and complete with no errors relating to names, numbers and facts.

Re-reading brings in the stylistic element, requiring us to check that the tone, nuances and regional variations are spot on too. We also ensure that the content is flawless in its logic and search for gaps in the argument and inconsistencies in the content.

A final check is performed before a text goes to print, with the focus on hyphenation, line breaks and typos.

Top tips for proofreading

  1. Work in a quiet You need to be able to concentrate when you’re proofreading. Distractions are likely to affect your quality and make you work less efficiently. If it’s impossible for you to remove all the background noise, noise-cancelling headphones could be a worthwhile investment.
  2. Rely on your spell checker to catch obvious mistakes for you.
  3. Make sure your proofreading process involves multiple rounds – you need at least two. When you’re looking at a text for the second time, you’ll usually spot something you missed the first time around. That comes down to the fact that your brain is incredibly effective at automatically correcting spelling mistakes without you even realising. Aoccdrnig to a sudty by a rsceheearchr at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pclae.
    It’s a sensible idea to check numbers, tables, tables of contents, page numbers, headings and subheadings in a separate pass. Ideally, you should put the text to one side for a while before you take your last look at it. Coming back to a text the next day will give you some distance and allow you to approach it with fresh eyes.
  4. Another recommendation is to proofread on paper to start with since we tend to spot more mistakes there than on a screen.
  5. Build in regular breaks – this is even more important for proofreading than other types of project. If you notice that your thoughts are starting to wander, get up, make yourself a cup of tea, look out of the window and stare into the distance for a few minutes to give your eyes a rest. Ideally, you’d go for a walk around the block to clear your head.
  6. Change your track changes settings in Word or Trados Studio so that no markup is displayed. This will help you avoid introducing errors into the text when making other corrections. It’s so easy to miss out a space or add an extra one if your changes are being displayed on the screen while you’re working on a text.
  7. Change your font size If the text is too big or too small, it’s easier to overlook typos and punctuation errors. This setting is easy enough to find in Word or Acrobat. It’s less obvious in Trados Studio, where you need to select Options > Editor > Font Adaptation:
font size

Tips for re-reading

  1. When you’ve been assigned a re-reading project, you need to also consider the style of the text. Repetitions should be replaced with synonyms, monotonous sentence structures should be varied and convoluted sentences should be shortened and simplified.
  2. But it’s also important to assess the content. The client probably knows more about their field than you do, but everyone makes mistakes. They’ll be grateful if you can point out any inaccuracies that have slipped in or any gaps in their logic. The best way to go about this is to send them questions and polite comments ahead of the deadline. It’s so important to phrase them carefully so you don’t come across as an arrogant person who thinks they know best.
  3. When re-reading, make sure you do your research if you have even the slightest doubt about something. It might even just be a date. Is 13 September really a Monday? A quick look at your calendar could end up stopping your client from making an embarrassing mistake.

Tips for final checks

  1. Final checks are performed on a PDF file, with a focus on typos, hyphenation, line breaks, layout and typography. You shouldn’t be making any stylistic changes at this point.
  2. Changes will only be made to an actual translation if absolutely necessary. If the text has already been through our quality assurance process, it’s even more annoying to spot something we’ve missed at this stage.
  3. But we often find that clients have made subsequent changes to the text that have had a knock-on effect on the translation. If this kind of error comes up, it goes without saying that we flag it up now.

Don’t be complacent

Let’s finish up with a general tip. Don’t just assume that you know everything or that something is probably right. Pay close attention and look up anything if you’re at all unsure. It’s not a sign of weakness. In actual fact, you need to be at least a little self-critical to be able to learn new things. Things change and there’s always more to learn.