Are you constantly creating content for your business? It’s always a great idea to hire expert proofreaders to polish your copy.
This quotation by D. Bonn Tennant sums up the benefits you can get from using a proofreading service.
“Most writing could be better. Not just a little better–significantly better…. A little attention to the final details can kick ‘pretty good’ to magnificent.” — D. Bonn Tennant
That being said, you’ll most likely face the inevitable question that most content creators battle with:
“What qualities should I look for in a proofreader?”
To help you answer these challenging questions, we’ve put together an evaluation checklist. This list works best for online proofreaders.
Let’s get down to business.
What skills should a proofreader have?
Any writing intended for publication must communicate its message in the best possible way. And just like a baker or pastry chef decorates a cake to cover any flaws or cracks, proofreaders polish and perfect your document.
The outcome of a successful proofreading project is, therefore, text that reads well and is engaging.
Here are the tell-tale signs that a proofreader can meet your content demands:
#1. Mastery of the written word
Proofreading involves more than dotting the ‘i’ or crossing the ‘t’. As a rule of thumb, professional proofreaders are familiar with a style guide or two. They are proficient in the language, including correct word usage, punctuation, and grammar.
Also, proofreaders are experienced in identifying—and eliminating–the common writing mistakes, inconsistent terminology, and formatting errors. The process requires an understanding of how language reads and how it’s spoken.
If, for example, you’re outsourcing proofing work for a blog, an expert proofreader checks the flow of your content, ensuring a logical flow, from the introduction to the key points in the conclusion.
How do you ascertain that a candidate possesses these qualities?
According to Study.com, a degree in English or communications is desirable. You should also look out for at least one or two years of experience, or professional training.
#2. Loves the little details
A meticulous approach to detailed work is an essential trait to consider when you hire expert proofreaders. The editor will be sitting down at the computer for hours or days on end, checking over your text with a fine-toothed comb to ensure everything is 100% perfect. As such, they must be able to stay focused while working on an entire document, which may be technical or long.
In sum, you should hire someone who will go above and beyond to produce spotless work. A proofreader must be adept at catching even negligible errors.
#3. Strong computer skills
Online proofreaders mostly work on word processing software and digital content. As such, a moderate level of computer and Internet knowledge is essential. If, for example, you’re contracting someone to work on website content, potential candidates should know how to use hyperlinks. Basic knowledge of Microsoft Word and features, such as track changes, therefore, cannot be overemphasized.
Moreover, you should hire expert proofreaders that can work with your team on projects together. Knowledge of collaborative tools like Google Docs, Asana, and Slack will allow for effective teamwork.
#4. Proactive and ask questions
Did the proofreader seek clarification during the interview process?
You want to know whether or not the candidate understands the project and the big picture. For instance, you may have a particular style guide which you want the contractor to follow, or have specific requirements for the project.
That’s why it’s a good idea to hire expert proofreaders whose experiences fit your needs. Go for those who have worked on projects similar to yours.
#5. A track record of quality delivery
It should show in the proofreaders’ work that they take pride in the quality of their product.
Whether it’s a freelancer or a proofreading service, it’s essential to check the feedback from previous clients–either from the testimonials on their website or social media profiles.
This approach helps in verifying the types of projects the proofreader has worked on recently. You’ll also know whether they delivered quality good enough that the previous employer would recommend them.
Although some proofreaders may not have testimonials on their website to protect their clients’ privacy, they should be able to provide a professional portfolio on request.
#6. Top-notch communication skills
Communication is the minimum requirement for any contract, freelance, or remote work. It would be best if you had someone readily available since both of you will have to collaborate on how the finished work will turn out perfect.
Besides, a proofreader that exhibits excellent communication skills shows dedication to your project. Does the contractor provide prompt responses to queries? Or is there a delay in communication via emails, texts, or calls?
To make communication more manageable, it’s always a good idea to ensure that the proofreader is in a time zone that aligns with yours.
If you’re looking to work with an agency, it’s advisable to go with one that has proofreaders available in all time zones.
#7. Ability to meet deadlines
If you’re hiring remotely, you might not be able to verify a proofreader’s work principles. Discussing with them further will give you a sense of whether or not you can rely on them to meet your publishing goals. This advice by Inc. regarding working with freelancers—or other contractors–hits the nail on the head:
“This means clearly spelling out how many hours per week you expect them to work on your project, which tasks need to be met by which deadlines, how they are to complete specific work, etc.”–Inc.
To avoid any confusion when you hire expert proofreaders, ensure you’re on the same page—be upfront with your deadline. It’s usually a good idea to outline the project’s scope, set deadlines for submission, and make available clear guidelines.
Check out this post to know how long it takes professional proofreaders to complete projects.
#8. Sound judgment to employ the proper tone
Another critical skill for proofreaders is the ability to work within your writing style. Instead of imposing their ideas, allow for originality and the creativity you deserve during every phase of revision. It’s also a big plus if the proofreader is familiar with your niche or industry.
Also, ensuring the right tone for your copy is tricky. Therefore, besides considering the author’s distinct voice, a proofreader makes sure that the style of content aligns with the overall brand tone.
Does your brand have a super-friendly tone? Or are you aiming for a neutral voice? Factors that aspect tone in writing includes the following: the audience, the medium, brand personality, and document purpose.
A user manual will have a completely different tone than a social media post.
Though this aspect may have been fixed during the editing process, some errors may still be glaring.
Besides having the eyes of a hawk and an insane mastery of the language, punctuation, and grammar, a proofreader must also bring the following to the table:
• Patience for the tediousness that comes with fine-tuning every single aspect of the content
• Familiarity with a couple of style guides
• Resourcefulness and the ability to multitask, especially with publishing deadlines around the corner
• Expertise in cross-checking and verifying data through additional research
• Excellent communication skills
• Deliver work by the deadline without sacrificing quality
Even if you have the advantage of meeting your proofreader, it’s advisable to give them a trial job for starters—to be sure you can work well together. ProofreadingPros offers 1,000 words free to let you try our service out. Sign up for a 7-day Trial Editing Subscription to receive your free word balance.