Mistakes in a document seriously affect the credibility of our work. Few of us, as writers, can see our own mistakes – we tend to read what we intended writing - and this is where a trained proofreader comes in. Reading that someone is ‘writing a bog’ won’t encourage confidence in their views and opinions.
Added to which, when we are reading we don’t have the assistance of body language and voice tone to help us understand meaning. That’s why punctuation is important; it helps us to understand what is really being said. Missing punctuation leads to ambiguity.
When the information is important, get the punctuation right and your message will be clear.
Proofreading or copy editing?
There is an overlap between the two tasks but generally a proofreader will check that the writing is correct (spelling, punctuation, etc.) while a copy editor will check the writing is correct and also look for ways to improve it.
Proofreading will check the mechanics of writing: spelling, grammar, capitalisation (or if you are in America, capitalization), hyphens, punctuation. All those things we try to remember from school: it’s or its, that or which, during the Cold War versus the cold-war era?
Proofreading includes checking font styles, spacings, headings, tables, diagrams and numbers to ensure they are consistent throughout. Are page numbers and references on the correct page? A proofreader does the final checking to ensure the document is ready for publication.
Copy editing will check all the proofreading tasks and also improve phrasing and sentence structure to make the writing more effective.
Who are your readers? Is the language appropriate for them? Or is it full of jargon and difficult technical terms?
Are there inconsistencies in style, language or information?
Is it wordy, clumsy, passive? How could it flow better?
Note: this is NOT a major rewriting of your words; it is simply looking for ways to clarify and tighten the message.
Does your website need proofreading? Do you also need it to be edited? Is your key information succinct and clear?
Are all the links working? Is it user-friendly with headlines and links standing out from the text? Accuracy, speed of pages loading and overall appearance of the site will be checked for you.