Proofreading – the final check

Proofreading is a critical task that takes place at the very end of the writing process.

Proofreading confirms required edits and changes have been made and then runs through a checklist of items that can only be completed when the document is in its final form. These items include:

  • A final review of spelling and punctuation.
  • Checking cross-references: If you refer to a previous quote, citation or chapter, is the reference still accurate or has it changed as the document has been rewritten?
  • Reviewing accuracy of references and citations: Do all references exist in the references section? Are all citations correct and consistent?
  • Reviewing referencing style for accuracy.
  • Reviewing the name and content of all figures, charts and tables: Are all references to these within text accurate? Do the names and data match?

If the document is in final printed page proof form, separate proofreading checks will also be made for:

  • Table of contents and other lists.
  • Appendices, index, bibliography and other notes: Do all references match main text?
  • Poor type flow. All the following can distract a reader’s eye, and disrupt comprehension.
    • Poor linebreaks (including bad hyphenation: eg, ‘pronouncement’ becomes ‘pronoun-‘ on one line and ‘cement” on the next). Or equations which break at the = symbol, so 2 x 2 could be on one line and = 4 on the next. These are awful to read but simple to adjust.
    • Widows – a single, lonely word at the top of a page or column.
    • Orphans – a single, lonely word in the last line of a page or column.
    • Rivers – space between words that appears in the same part of several consecutive lines of text, creating a solid vertical white line that interrupts a reader’s eye scan from left to right.
  • Matching of charts and tables to text: Do they all fall on the pages referred to within text?
  • Overall adherence to printer specifications: Is the document the right physical page size, are all fonts and type sizes correct, are embedded images in correct formats, do all headers and footers meet requirements?

Proofreading does not replace copyediting. Proofreading looks at the final work for mistakes, while copyediting looks at the original work predominantly for the writing.