1. Be open to criticism
Proofreading starts with ourselves. Many proofreaders find it difficult to criticize others. It is even more difficult when criticism is only reluctantly accepted. There are many different ways to reject criticism:
- “We've always done it this way”
- “We can't change that now”
- “We don't need the info”
Sure, criticism can be annoying. But every criticism helps, even if it's irrelevant, because it then shows us where a text is met with resistance or where there is ambiguity.
Being open to criticism does not mean implementing every criticism. Instead, it means being grateful for corrections and explaining which criticism helps, which helps in principle (but cannot be implemented due to cost or time constraints), and which criticism does not help and why. This means that you learn from one another and the next stage of the proofreading process runs even more smoothly and successfully.
2. Give clear work instructions
Speaking of learning from one another: often there are problems in proofreading because the proofreader doesn't know what's expected of them. This begins with things as simple as the time horizon: when does the text need to be edited? And no, it's not enough for the proofreaders to know when the text is going to be published. In addition, the proofreaders also need to know exactly what type of review is expected of them.
- Is it only about content?
- Should the spelling be checked?
- Does the layout need to be corrected?
Editing is split into different stages: first the content, then the language, then the spelling, and finally the layout. It's important for the proofreaders to know at what stage their revision is and why it's not worth doing later tasks in advance.
3. Standardize your review
In addition to the “what” of the review, the “why” is also important. The results of proofreading are significantly better if a documented revision process exists:
- Should standard proofreader's marks be used (and does the proofreader know these)?
- Or should the Word review function be used instead?
- Should errors be pointed out even if they are obvious and can be rectified immediately?
- Should only the facts be presented during the technical review or should suggestions on wording be made straight away?
Proofreading has many aspects and it's best to clarify these before starting the revision process. They can also be written down in a review style guide or a checklist so that they are always on hand for new proofreaders. In addition, proofreaders should know which formulation standards were used for the respective text. In the case of technical documentation, these are usually the terminology and the style guide. Otherwise, the proofreading results will contain many comments that have already been decided otherwise.
4. Be kind to your proofreader
Proofreading is never an easy task. It requires accuracy, even though there is usually time pressure. It requires precise analysis of the content and tact when formulating criticism. It requires a lot – and only few are truly excellent proofreaders in the revision process.
It is therefore worth expressing your appreciation for them. A word of gratitude or small act of kindness is usually enough. For example, a small bar of chocolate or a homemade jam shows proofreaders how much you appreciate their cooperation.
5. Measure the success
The goal of editing is avoiding errors. So, there is nothing more frustrating than a never-ending task where you get the sense that the same mistakes are occurring again and again. It is therefore a good idea to set goals for which errors you want to permanently reduce in editing. For example, this might be the number of comments in the technical revision. A concrete measurement of success creates an incentive to eliminate this type of error in advance, e.g., through more detailed research or better documentation of the results. This means that these errors will gradually become less common. The review workload is reduced and the satisfaction of those involved increases – what more could you want?
Proofreading is a critical step in the publication process with the aim of identifying errors and weaknesses and getting the best out of a text. To make proofreading more effective, we should be open to criticism and gratefully accept corrections, even if they are sometimes hard to swallow. Clearly defined work instructions are crucial for avoiding misunderstandings and giving proofreaders clear guidelines. The standardization of the revision process and use of style guides or checklists improves the quality of the results. Showing your appreciation to proofreaders through small gestures of gratitude helps them to feel valued and motivated. Finally, it's important to measure the success of the revision process and set concrete goals in order to reduce recurring errors. Through continuous improvements and efficient error prevention, the revision process will run more smoothly, increasing the satisfaction of everyone involved.