How to be a better proofreader

If you’re looking to move up in the translation market, more effective proofreading is critical. If you’re the type of person who cringes at the sight of an error in print, make sure that your translations aren’t contributing to the problem, and give your clients that extra quality step that marks your service as above average! Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned over the years, and feel free to add your own!

  • It’s hard to proofread your own work, but sometimes you have to do it. A cross-editing partner is really invaluable if you work for direct clients. If you work for agencies and can’t afford to hire out your proofreading, try to do as thorough a job as possible on your own work.
  • Proofread in a different format than the original. I prefer to proofread from a hard copy; I print the target document, then proofread in front of two computer monitors with the target document in one window and the source document in the other, so that I can make corrections as soon as I see the errors. If your work (i.e. Flash animations, graphics, etc.) doesn’t lend itself to being printed, at least try to change the size, font, color, anything to make the target text look different enough that you have to pay attention to it.
  • Pay particular attention to easily-botched numbers and words. Check every digit in every number. Check every letter in every name and place name. Check every negative expression to make sure that you wrote the correct version (i.e. always versus never).
  • Realize that the majority of errors consist of the wrong word, not a misspelled word. The spell-checker saves you from cracking a dictionary to remember whether recommendation has one m or two, but it doesn’t save you from typing fat instead of fact, or asses instead of assets, or any other number of mortifying blunders. So force yourself to slow down; when I took editing classes with Alice Levine, she advised pointing at each word with a pen, and also never proofreading when you’re tired.
  • Watch out for your typical errors. For some reason, I habitually put the space in the wrong place when I’m typing two small words in a row, such as “tot his” instead of “to this.” Sometimes the spell-checker saves me (“thi stime” instead of “this time”) but “tot his” slips through!.
  • While you’re at it, mark the errors in the source document. The client may or may not be concerned with these, but you can add a little value and it’s not much extra work. Also, I think it’s almost easier to find errors in your non-native language because you spent so many years drilling the correct spellings and conjugations!
10 Responses to “How to be a better proofreader”
  1. Patricia June 29, 2010
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  3. Fredc June 29, 2010
  4. Babeliane June 29, 2010
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  6. Thomas Schmidt June 29, 2010
  7. Alex Eames June 30, 2010
  8. Tess June 30, 2010
  9. Maria Rosaria Carbone July 5, 2010
  10. bridgerjones February 29, 2016

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