How do you copyedit/proofread my work?

With experience, I have worked out a system of checks that I perform each time in the following order (I’ve made myself a little tick chart):

  1. Is it the correct document, version and format that I was expecting?
  2. Have all the pages been received correctly with the appropriate amount of text/images on each page?
  3. Then, I look at the layout of the page:
  • Are the left and right alignment of text correct with regard to margins and borders?
  • Is the text consistently aligned/centred/blocked?
  • Is the text font size/type/colour consistent?
  • Are headings consistently aligned/centred/blocked?
  • Are all the images the right way up and facing the right way (important for writing on signs and for direction of traffic in different countries)?
  • Are the image captions/numbers correct?
  • Are any footnotes or references correct?
  1. I will check any special notes you have provided (British or American spellings, Style Guide, Style Sheet, personal preferences, etc)
  2. Knowing in which format you want this document returned is important to note at this stage as it alters how I am approach my work.I prefer to copyedit/proofread in MS Word and to make corrections directly onto the document using tracked changes. In this way you can still see what I have done and decisions I have made. Making these changes myself is a lot quicker than just highlighting the errors and making suggestions in comment boxes. It also allows me to run checks at the end to pick up any remaining errors.

I am also able to copyedit/proofread pdfs in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC using commenting tools (highlights, sticky notes and comment boxes). However, I prefer to convert the pdf to a MS Word document so that I can run my checks and work directly into the text. The MS Word document can then be converted back to a pdf at the end if required. However, there are sometimes formatting issues involved in this process so I will usually send back one MS Word document with tracked changes plus one pdf document with comments on any formatting or layout problems.

  1. So what checks do I carry out on an MS Word document? First of all, I run Paul Beverley’s Docalyse macro to analyse the document, including:
  • UK/US spellings (eg -ise/-ize)
  • Preferred spellings (eg amid/amidst, while/whilst, -elt/-elled)
  • Serial commas
  • Hyphen/en dash and spacings
  • Numbers in words or figures
  1. At this stage, I may run Microsoft’s spellchecker as an additional check.
  2. For some clients, it is necessary to run a Find/Replace check at this point looking for rogue double whitespaces.
  3. Then I run PerfectIt to check consistency for, amongst others:
  • Spellings and contractions
  • Grammar
  • Omissions
  • Phraseology
  1. Only now can I actually start to read the document! Depending on its length, I may give it a quick read through to give me an idea of the subject matter, author’s voice and any potential problems to be identified from the start. It may be that I have to contact you for clarification at this point.
  2. It’s time to get down to the nitty gritty and actually start to copyedit/proofread the document word-by-word, including:
  • Homophones (the dog eight the bone = the dog ate the bone)
  • Verbs and tenses (we would of ate = we would have eaten)
  • Hyphen or en dash (1939–1945, Bowes-Lyon)
  • With or without a hyphen for nouns and adjectives (on board, on-board)
  • Correct word order in sentences
  • Logical order of paragraphs/chapters
  • Logical information (dates, timings, ages)
  • Whether it makes sense (my siblings have no children, but I am an aunt)
  • Whether it flows or whether the reader is pulled up short
  1. I then run another Find/Replace check for any inconsistencies I may have noted down during my read through and copyedit/proofread.
  2. I may wish to run Docalyse or Microsoft spellchecker once more, especially in a longer document.
  3. I always finish off by running PerfectIt one more time. If the document is written in American English, then I will also run Grammarly.
  4. Finally, I recheck all the instructions you provided me with, to make sure that I have covered everything asked of me, and that I have ticked everything on my check list.
  5. Now comes the nerve-wracking part of returning the copyedited/proofread document to you via email in the format(s) you have requested:
  • MS Word with tracked changes
  • A clean copy of the document in MS Word (ie with all tracked changes accepted and turned off)
  • Pdf with comments and highlights
  • A clean copy of the document as a pdf (ie with all tracked changes accepted and turned off)
  • A new or updated Style Sheet
  1. When returning the document, I always ask if you have any further questions or wish any revisions to be made. Sometimes, seeing your work in a ‘cleaned up’ version makes you see it differently. You may wish to add, change or remove certain parts and then have the document rechecked, which is not a problem, but, depending on the amount of work required, may incur an additional charge.
  2. As well as the invoice, I also attach a Client Feedback Form for you to complete and return to me.
  3. Finally:
  • Work has been returned and received by you
  • Any questions have been answered and revisions made as necessary
  • You are happy!
  • You have paid my invoice
  • You have completed and returned the Client Feedback Form
  • You have left positive feedback on social media
  • You have referred me to friends and colleagues
  • You have sent me more work
  • I am happy!

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