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  • Writer's pictureAmanda George

Proofreaders don't make mistakes 👀

Yes, they do. 

Because they are human. And human brains are not designed for proofreading. Our brains tend to process whole words rather than individual letters. Ever wondered why proofreading is so exhausting? 🧠 

In my 15 years as a freelance proof-editor, I have made a few cracking mistakes, especially in the early days. But when I analyse them (which I do), I see that the blame is not all mine. 

Here are some other reasons why we might miss things: 

🔴 ᴀ ʟɪᴍɪᴛᴇᴅ ᴄʟɪᴇɴᴛ ʙᴜᴅɢᴇᴛ. In my early days of freelancing, I was offered £10 😫 for a job that was more complex than it looked. I missed an obvious typo. I was busy looking at other things, as requested. I was told it had been checked multiple times and should be error-free but needed someone to check it all worked (it was a quiz). I had to pay the £10 back. It was brutal, exploitative, horrible. Note to self: Don't sell yourself short, because it doesn't lead anywhere good. Resentment affects our work. 

🔴 ᴀ ʟᴀᴄᴋ ᴏꜰ ᴛɪᴍᴇ. We have all been there, having to squeeze into 2 days a job that should take 2 weeks because it arrives late. The result? We are going to miss things. It's all about the planning. Both parties (client and freelancer) are responsible for this. Boundaries matter. 

🔴 ᴀ ʟᴀᴄᴋ ᴏꜰ ᴇxᴘᴇʀɪᴇɴᴄᴇ. The number of errors we pick up increases as we gain experience, because our brain adapts to the various processes going on (there are many). A very new proofreader might pick up 50% of errors, while a more experienced one might find 95%. Which is why we charge less when we start. And confidence boosts our work. As we get better, we get more confident, and more relaxed, which frees up our brain to do its best work. 

🔴 ᴀ ʟᴀᴄᴋ ᴏꜰ ᴛʀᴀɪɴɪɴɢ. The more we skill up, the better we get. Simple. 

🔴 ᴀ ᴍᴜᴅᴅʟᴇᴅ ʙʀɪᴇꜰ. Clients sometimes ask for proofreading when copy-editing (or developmental/line editing) is needed, and it's harder to do multiple processes in one go, especially in longer, more complex documents. 𝙶𝚘𝚕𝚍 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚊𝚛𝚍: copy-editing first, followed by proofreading at a later stage when the author has been through your suggestions. Proof-editing (both processes rolled into one) can be really helpful, and cost-effective, but the context must be right.

🔴 ᴀ ʙᴀᴅ ᴅᴀʏ. We all have them. We are human. 

Does this mean we shouldn't hire proofreaders and copy-editors? 

NO! 📣 

Because proofreaders and editors are passionate about adding value. We know the power of words. We love words and how they make people feel. 

And we are realistic about what can be done in different contexts. There are scenarios when we can hit perfection. And that's brilliant. But if we can improve a complex document significantly, why wouldn't we? Readers will have a much nicer experience. And happy readers are more easily persuaded. Job done. 

Need some help? 

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