The Zen of Proofreading for Professional – Free Proofreading Guide Book


Dr Andrew Linder

If your company’s future or your own depends on serious editing, get a serious editor. This is a guide for the reasonably literate, but error-prone:
  • Your thesis- adviser returned your dissertation for editing. Unhappy comments regarding structure, style, clarity, phrasing, and grammar, all within the strict rules of academic life.
  • You dreamt about it for a while and wrote your first blog for your start-up app with rising excitement. You pushed “publish” and saw with your mind’s eye a flood of clients and investors fascinated by the concept that you had been dreaming about and working on for a very long time. Great concepts don’t sell themselves though, and many grammar error reflects badly on the concept.
  • You have before you on the screen an application letter and CV, or an important business report. You have every reason to be anxious about the phrasing and structuring in this format. Writing is revealing. Be especially careful on dating sites or in corporate boardrooms where subject-verb disagreements can strike as a character.
  • You are to deliver important presentation or submit an important proposal with common errors that are like gravy stain on your tie combined with spinach between your teeth.
What now? That’s how you got to this site. You sought “proofreading”, “grammar”, “punctuation”, or “editing”.  You will surely read the same advice on all too many editing/proofreading sites. Work on printed copy. Read it aloud. Read backwards. Change the appearance of the content.  Edit in short time blocks. Avoid distractions. Find a quiet place to work. Good advice, as far as it goes, which is not very far. People will tell you that proofreading is “the last stage of the writing process”.  Don’t listen to them. In our work, very often the material that we proofread does come after the writer and editor, sometimes several editors, have gone over it. We are trained to look for the slightest error with trained eyes, the last, vital checkpoint before the printer, who has no need of the classic editing marks in the digital age. But your needs are different and require an entirely different skill-set, more precisely mind-set. Over the years, editors develop skills that require effort and mindfulness, rather like learning such Zen arts as archery, sword fighting, gardening or conducting a tea ceremony. Every component of the art or discipline is fully in play at all times. There are masters of the art, but everyone in the end makes the path by walking it. Moreover, there are no strict boundaries that separate one aspect of the practice or one stage from another.
Obviously, this is not your usual site for the proofreading arts, and it makes for some assumptions. You are literate, and write at reasonable levels. With the help of someone who would edit and proofread, you would do just fine. Only, one of your sentences runs into the next. You make the standard errors that count, as simple as confusing “its” from “it’s”.
No, you don’t need grammar lessons, but a little Zen will help The knowledge is so often in you, if you are a reasonably literate person. Don’t be rule bound. Don’t stick to name and form. You learn by doing. Get started. It’s a free course!