Becoming a proofreader

I hope that if you’re thinking of becoming a proofreader that this will be a helpful starting point. Feel free to skip to the resources if you don’t want to read about my journey to freelancing 😉


The one constant throughout my life has been my love of books and words.  As an introvert, slightly lacking in confidence and convinced of others’ superiority, I found solace in the pages of a good book. English literature was the one subject I felt comfortable with and I always had an opinion to give.  Careers advisers in school advised me against a degree in English; unless I wanted to teach.  I didn’t. I was convinced that I wasn’t smart enough.  Thankfully, when I went to university to study Sociology I had the chance to take an English module and realised my mistake.  I transferred to the English Literature course and loved it.  However, when it came to finals I had been convinced that my dream of working in publishing was near impossible if I wanted to stay in Northern Ireland.

Fast forward a decade (or so!) and the internet has changed that.  After numerous qualifications in a wide variety of subjects, a series of jobs and three children I felt like it was time to give it a go.  If nothing else I would learn something new and could get over the regret I felt at not pursuing it in the first place.

Where to start though?  I started research and did a quick test on the SFEP’s website to see if I had what it takes to be a proofreader.  If you are reading this, wondering where to start I’d recommend that test as a starting point (link below). Since I qualified, lots of people have approached me to say they’d make a good proofreader, because, like me, they loved reading and had a good grasp of the English language.  I quickly learned after the test that wasn’t enough! For a start, I didn’t have a clue about em or en dashes and when hyphens were appropriate or not.  That night I signed up for the Publishing Training Centre’s Basic Proofreading course. I thoroughly enjoyed the course but it was more challenging than I had anticipated, especially with a busy work and family life to work around. It took me slightly longer than a year but during that time I was also able to do a lot of research about what my next steps should be once I had that certificate in my hand. I also did their Grammar at Work course to reassure myself that I was up to scratch.

If you are thinking of pursuing your publishing dream I’m going to list the most useful resources I have come across during my period of training.  I’ll put all the links below.

The single most helpful resource I found has been the wonderful Louise Harnby!  Her Proofreading Parlour, blog, newsletter, archive of articles and Facebook group are all free to access and are continually inspirational and informative. She encouraged me to bite the bullet and get myself out there when I was suffering from a serious bout of impostor syndrome. I also bought her book ‘Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers’ it was full of great advice and case studies to help get off on the right foot.

Twitter:  It sounds obvious but I was a big Facebook fan and never really used Twitter for personal use.  The editing and publishing communities are so welcoming, helpful and generous with their knowledge and resources.  When you’re at home freelancing it can feel like the loneliest job in the world; to have like-minded colleagues online is invaluable.  One of my favourite Twitter feeds is @espirian, he is continually posting great tips for editors. Facebook is great too, especially the Editors’ Association of Earth groups and Louise Harnby’s group, there is always someone willing to give a knowledgeable answer to newbies’ questions.

Books: When I’m learning something new I always rely on books as well as newer technology. The most helpful alongside Louise Harnby’s were: New Hart’s Rules a brilliant resource to dip into or to read cover to cover if you’re a geek like me! Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation explains all those grammar rules that you know but don’t necessarily understand. The New Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors is awesome especially for those pesky hyphens! I also enjoyed William Critchley’s The Pocket Book of Proofreading it was easy to read and witty. There are loads of others out there but some I found were quite out of date and others were more useful for American/Canadian editors.

Apps: Word Swag a great app for making social media graphics.

Trello, a great app for those who love to-do lists.  There are loads of different ones but it’s my favourite as it is easy to customise and prioritise tasks.

Blogs: there are too many great blogs to mention them all but aside from The Proofreader’s Parlour I read and Liz Jones’s regularly 

I hope this will be of some help.  Please feel free to get in touch or ask any questions you have.  Aimee x



Links to resources

Source: Blog: The Proofreader’s Parlour

2 thoughts on “Becoming a proofreader

  1. John Espirian May 3, 2018 — 1:42 pm

    Thanks for the shout, Aimee. I’m always up for helping polite, friendly people. Glad you found some value in my ramblings! 😀

  2. Great post here Aimee! I think we’re at very similar stages in our career. I’ve found nearly all of the resources you’ve mentioned very helpful indeed!

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