A proof is a typeset version of copy or a manuscript page. They often contain typos introduced through human error. Traditionally, a proofreader looks at an increment of text on the copy and then compares it to the corresponding typeset increment, and then marks any errors (sometimes called line edits) using standard proofreaders’ marks. Unlike copy editing, proofreading’s defining procedure is to work directly with two sets of information at the same time. Proofs are then returned to the typesetter or graphic artist for correction. Correction-cycle proofs will typically have one descriptive term, such as bounce, bump, or revise unique to the department or organization and used for clarity to the strict exclusion of any other. It is a common practice for all such corrections, no matter how slight, to be sent again to a proofreader to be checked and initialed, thus establishing the principle of higher responsibility for proofreaders as compared to their typesetters or artists.
Proofreaders are expected to be consistently accurate by default because they occupy the last stage of typographic production before publication.
Before it is typeset, copy is often marked up by an editor or customer with various instructions as to typefaces, art, and layout. Often these individuals will consult a style guide of varying degrees of complexity and completeness.
Although many commercial and college-level proofreading courses of varying quality can be found online, practical job training for proofreaders has declined along with its status as a craft. Numerous books are also available that instruct the basics to their readers. Such tools of self-preparation have by and large replaced formal workplace instruction.
Proofreader applicants are tested primarily on their spelling, speed, and skill in finding errors in the sample text. Toward that end, they may be given a list of ten or twenty classically difficult words and a proofreading test, both tightly timed. The proofreading test will often have a maximum number of errors per quantity of text and a minimum amount of time to find them. The goal of this approach is to identify those with the best skill set.
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