- "First, do no harm."
- This requires a lot of communication, either with the author you are working with or a team you are proofreading a document with. Make sure you discuss expectations, such as if corrections will be made in an original on-screen document or if marks will be used instead to indicate suggested changes. If the document is a hard copy, ensure that the document is saved somewhere that it can be reprinted and is meant to be marked on. Go over proofreaders' marks you will be using so any changes you want can be clearly understood.
- "Make sure your input is wanted."
- Make sure you find out exactly what the author expects from you. Do they just want help finding the smaller mistakes? Do they want a thorough dissection of the document? Are they just looking for encouragement? Also, find out what time frame you are working in. Knowing how long you have to do the work will determine how in-depth you can go with editing the piece. If you only have a small window, try to work out the most crucial errors, such as facts and figures and client names. Take this opportunity to evaluate the intentions the author has when passing the document to you. If it is not a typical author-editor relationship, such as with a coworker or a friend, consider their motives and what you think your relationship suggests you should do.
- "Show sensitivity - always."
- For most authors, they have some sort of investment in their work. They have spent a lot of time working on this piece, including a lot of stress and trying to make it "just right." If it is a creative piece, such as a novel or poem, they have also put a lot of heart, emotion, and personal perspective into the document. Be gentle with your comments and watch your tone in your suggestions. I'm not saying that you should be a wimp, but keep in mind that the author is human too, not a computer or a robot. If there are many mistakes of all sizes and you have time to go through several drafts, start with the big problems. With each draft, focus on the next level until the document is where you want it to be. To help with a writer's self-esteem when you have to make a good deal of corrections, mention something positive in the work to take the focus off of the negative.
- "Do a competent job."
- The best way to do this is to keep yourself in-the-know. If you want to be an editor or proofreader but don't have a strong grasp on the rules of the English language, such as comma usage or proper usage of prepositions, do your research. When you are put in charge of improving another person's document, you have a responsibility to do the best job possible and to know your stuff. Even if you are confident in your knowledge, keep several books on grammar and language rules handy to double-check yourself. Also, if any discrepancies come up, it adds to your credibility if you are willing to check your resources and even admit when you made a mistake. Rules change, so it is important to keep up.
- "Work to create a partnership."
- Don't let your head get big because you were asked to proofread someone else's work. Remember that this should be a partnership: you need to work together to improve the piece. Respect each other and remember that each person is human. Don't put yourself in a position where you put the other person down or think you are better than they are because you caught their mistakes. This is not an aristocracy, it is a partnership.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Proofreading for Others
Tips from Proofreading: Plain and Simple by Debra Hart May, with my own commentary: