What Is Proofreading?

“Proofing” is one of the last stages in document production. It comes after all self-editing, structural editing, and copy editing. Typesetting is also completed beforehand. Proofreading focuses on technical aspects of your writing.

  • Problems with the typography or layout (e.g., spacing or pagination problems)
  • Any remaining typos, misspellings, punctuation errors, etc.
  • English dialect quirks (e.g., Americans don’t call candy “lollies”)
  • Subtle misuse of a style guide
  • When required, mistakes or typos in cover art

Inconsistencies in the narrative (e.g., plot holes) and major stylistic concerns should be addressed before this stage, probably during copy editing. Proofing merely cleans the final, subtle mistakes you, editors, and designers may have missed.


Do I need a proofreader?

Many self-published authors choose to handle proofreading on their own. Unfortunately, it’s easy to miss the errors a proofreader hunts for, especially when you’ve stared at your document for many hours.

Proofreading may not sound like a very important stage, but it can be one of the differences between good work and great work. If you don’t want people complaining on Goodreads and Amazon about minor typos and grammatical errors, this is a service you should consider.

If you’re going the traditional route, you do not need to hire a proofreader. Any (good) publisher who publishes your work will have it proofread by in-house or freelance proofreaders. They will not charge you for this service.


How much does proofreading cost?

I charge 1.2 to 1.5 cents per word for proofreading, which is a standard rate of roughly $30.00 to $35.00 an hour.

79,000 words * 1.3 cents per word = $1,027.00

If you’d like for me to proofread by hand, using proofreader’s marks, I charge 2.0 cents per word. Please note this process takes longer, as does mailing the proofread manuscript.

The most common marks Kate uses when proofreading

On a shoestring budget? Pay attention to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Reddit. Sometimes I share discount codes!


How do I pay for proofreading?

You can make payments via PayPal, check, or bank transfer.

Proofreading jobs that exceed $200.00 (most do) require two payments, an initial 50 percent deposit, with the final 50 percent due upon receipt of your proofread document.

I’m sometimes open to breaking large invoices down into three to four payments, so if that’s something you need, let me know via email. Please know I prefer checks or money transfers in these situations, as they let me avoid additional PayPal fees.


Can I skip copy editing and just use proofreading?

As publishing has gone digital, the line between editing and proofreading has blurred. It’s not unusual to see proofreading referred to as a type of editing, nor is it wholly inaccurate to call it a “light edit.” But you should know proofing is just that—lightly, or loosely, related to editing. It is, however, a stage in proper document preparation.

Self-publishing can be an expensive endeavor. If you want to do it right, though, your manuscript must be edited thoroughly. Ideally, your work will go through multiple editing stages and a proofreading stage.

If you have a strict and limited budget, I recommend you opt for copy editing. Hopefully the most glaring mistakes will be caught during that process. Realize much depends on the amount of work your manuscript requires, though.