Proofreading as an Art
Did you ever consider that proofreading is actually an art? It is true that jobs in creative writing may not use hard tools like paint and canvas, but within this career, most tasks, including proofreading, are a form of art. The canvas is paper or a digital screen, the paint is the text and/or graphic content, and the final product artist would be the proofreader who is in charge of final stage approval of that content.
Responsibility for Proofreading
Because they do have the final say prior to publication, accuracy and perfection is expected of proofreaders. While everyone involved in a production should strive to submit works of excellence and perfection, the default responsibility lands upon the proofreader who has final say. Writers can help by meticulously proofing their submissions, but for some unknown reason, there almost always are some pesky errors or omissions that slip past a creator’s eyes.
Proofreading Improves Creative Writing
When you approach creative writing as if it is art, it is easier to understand why the final result is much more than just the word content. Part of a successful end product includes technical features like structure, visual layout and consistency of format. These may be words generally associated with artwork rather than writing, but they still apply to creative writing and require the attention of a skilled proofreader. Creative writing in a final form must flow smoothly, make sense to the reader and have a pleasant visual look that contributes to easy reading.
Your palette of “colors” to use when proofreading includes the following:
- Revision & Rewriting – This is when you can make subtle changes to the creative text by rearranging paragraph order, eliminating some text or adding new sections.
- Editing – Correcting mechanical mistakes or grammar flaws, rephrasing and making sure all text is consistent.
- Formatting – The final visual look of your materials. Scan for correctness and consistency in format, justification, alignment of text, spacing, numbers, bullets and footnotes.
Practice makes perfect proofreading, as does experience make an artist more skilled. Here are several tips to keep in mind as you practice your art of proofreading:
- Maintain consistency throughout – stick to the main point.
- Does the central idea of every paragraph relate to the overall thesis?
- Fine tune order; beware of unnecessary repetition.
- Do transitions enhance the flow of the writing?
- Print out a copy of the piece to use when proofing for best results.
- If possible, have a second person proof the revised document.
Even an expert, experienced proofreader acknowledges the benefits of having another person review and proofread before the final product is submitted for production. After the piece is published, it is just too late many times to be able to revise and make last-minute corrections. Some proofreaders take extra steps to find errors, like reading the text aloud or even backwards. It sounds funny, but these methods have value and can catch errors even the most watchful eyes miss.
Of all jobs in creative writing, proofreaders are the final guardians of correctness for style and visual content. Creative writers and graphic artists must produce and be responsible for content, but the proofreaders hold the weight of final changes before submission to clients, printing presses, media or the internet. Their job is not elementary, but artistic. competent and thorough proofreading is indeed an art, with great value.
Linda E is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.
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