Page proofs or draft web pages are usually the last chance to see everything – words, footnotes, images, graphs, tables – integrated with the design before going public. Now the work is largely fixed and changes have to be limited.
The proofreader uses care, judgement, skill, knowledge and experience in checking that the work of author, editor and designer/typesetter is satisfactory, marking amendments and advising the client of problems, all with the aim of optimising the result while minimising cost of production and delay to publication.
Professional proofreaders will:
Compare the proofs to the edited copy line by line or read 'blind'.
Check page numbers and page headings.
Check the table of contents against chapter titles, page numbers and endmatter – appendices, index, etc.
Ensure consistent styles – of spellings and hyphenation particularly – by following a style guide, if supplied, or compiling their own.
Watch out for omissions and inconsistencies in typography, layout and content.
Judge the need for changes in view of the budget and schedule. Changing just one word can have drastic knock-on effects.
Identify necessary changes and mark the proof (on paper or screen) using British Standards Institution (BSI) marks or another agreed method.
Check or insert cross-references where appropriate.
Eliminate inelegant or confusing word, column and page breaks, including 'widows' and 'orphans' – short last or first lines of a paragraph at the top or the bottom of a page, respectively.
Ensure that illustrations, captions and labels correspond with each other and with the text.
Check that content looks right and is logically arranged.
Liaise with the author(s) to resolve queries or advise the client.
Collate the author's changes with others, including their own, rationalising or querying conflicting instructions.
Part of the job is light editing within tight limits, but professional proofreaders do not re-edit the material. They intervene only with good reason.
This factsheet and further information can be found on the website of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading
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