Proofreading Techniques for Students, Amateurs and Professionals

At Transcription City, we have professional proofreaders that spot check typists’ transcripts on a regular basis and provide essential feedback on their work to keep our transcription standards the best in the industry. Our proofreaders also take on regular outsourced work from clients with ‘completed’ documents that need those final checks done to grammar, spelling, punctuation and even formatting to their documents.

Proofreading is a highly important part of writing any document, be it book, article, dissertation, report or even just an email for business circulation. A well written document can lose its impact if it contains even the simplest of errors, and if you are looking to get your writing published, having perfectly crafted writing can make all the difference. Here at Transcription City we provide proofreading services for your documents and here are some of the techniques that our proofreaders will use when checking through your work. Clarifying these techniques should make it easier for you to fully understand how and why any changes have been made to your document, or you can just read through these as handy tips to carry out your own proofreading work!

BSI Proofreading Symbols and Working With Hard Copy

Proofreading requires firm attention on the written word and so using a computer to proofread work can be highly strenuous on the eyes – even more so than typing due to the level of accuracy required. Many of our proofreaders will print out your document and make changes using BSI proofreading symbols on the hard copy, and then make changes using the ‘find’ or ‘replace’ functions on Microsoft Word. This is an important way of avoiding repetitive strain injury to your eyes or even just a headache. BSI symbols include simple symbols to indicate changes in formatting to words, including things like italics, indents, paragraph insertions or letter substitutions so proofread hard copy doesn’t become too cluttered and remains easy for professionals to read and understand. If you don’t know BSI proofreading symbols, you can still make changes to your hard copy and go back to use a computer to implement these changes. Believe us, you will appreciate how much easier and refreshing it can be to proofread a document quietly away from your PC.

Proofreading and Track Changes

When we proofread at Transcription City, we will always provide you with a final document and one that includes track changes. Track changes will highlight any changes we make to your document so it is easier for you to make the final decision on whether to keep those changes or not, allowing you to retain complete control over your document. Even if you are proofreading your own work, track changes can be important as if you realise you made a change that you are ultimately unsure of, you will still have a record of that change.

1. To turn on track changes:

Go to the ‘Review’ tab on Microsoft Word. Under the ‘Tracking’ menu, you should see a box that says ‘Track Changes’. Simply click this and track changes will be turned on. (The box should now be highlighted in orange and anything you now write will be underlined in red as an insertion – ‘Like this’. )

2. To hide track changes, or make them invisible:

Sometimes when tracked changes are turned on, there can seem like there is a lot going on on the page and it can look confusing. To make track changes invisible whilst still recording them, go to the ‘Tracking’ section under the ‘Review’ tab. You will see a dropdown box that will by default say ‘Final showing markup’. Change this to ‘Final’ and your track changes will become invisible. To see your tracked changes again, revert to ‘Final showing markup.’ Note: once you save and close your document, track changes will automatically reappear when you open it again. Under the ‘Show markup’ tab, you can also specify which types of changes you would like to show or hide, for example, you may not want to see comments but still see insertions and deletions.

3. To turn off track changes permanently:

This function of track changes can be the most difficult for many people to get their head around. To turn off track changes, you cannot simply click the ‘Track changes’ button and leave it un-highlighted. To turn changes off, you will need to do this first, but following, under the ‘Changes’ section under the ‘Review’ tab, you will need to move to the ‘Accept’ button and either work your way through each change and accept individually through ‘Accept and move to next’, or simply ‘Accept all changes in document.’ When this is done, under the tracking tab, changes ‘Final showing markup’ to ‘Final’ and make sure the ‘Track changes’ button is no longer highlighted. Track changes should now be turned off. Note: if when you do this, the track change bar still remains, you may also need to delete all comments within your document and the bar should clear.

Editing Functions

When you do a lot of proofreading, you may realise that some of your mistakes are actually recurring in certain areas. For example, ‘For example,’ should always be followed by a comma. If a writer often forgets the comma, or maybe was initially unaware of this, a professional proofreader will often look at saving time by using either the ‘Find’ or ‘Replace’ functions on Word to find occurrences of that word and if applicable, automatically change any.

1. To use the ‘Find’ function:

Under the ‘Home’ tab, move to the ‘Editing’ section and select ‘Find.’ Type in the desired word and select ‘Find next’.

2. To use the ‘Replace’ function.

Under the ‘Editing’ section under the ‘Home’ tab, find and select ‘Replace’. Once the dialogue box opens, type the word that is to be replaced (or found first), in the ‘Find what’ box. In the box below, type the word that is to replace it, under ‘Replace with.’ For example, Find what: Their, Replace with: There. You can review each change by individually selecting ‘Replace’ as you go along, or if you are confident, press ‘Replace all.’ Please note, if you are replacing whole words, it’s a good tip to put a space before and after the word (especially if the word is short). For example, if you are replacing ‘ore’ with ‘are,’ and you simply type these without the spaces, Microsoft Word will also change all words INCLUDING these letters. For example, ‘ChORE’ would become ‘ChARE’. It is also for this reason that it is often best to take the time to replace each word individually, and it’s still quicker than finding them yourself!

Using Comments

At Transcription City, if we are unsure of a change to your document, or it is more of a recommendation or a suggestion that would improve your writing, we will insert a comment box so you can review the recommendation yourself. We can also make you aware of things that may be missing in your document. For example, in a dissertation, you may have a quote with a correctly written reference to the source, but you may be missing the author, line, or page number. If you are proofreading your own work, you can use this function to remind yourself to go back and check things as comments can be turned off or hidden so it will keep your work neater.

1. How to insert a comment:

Go to ‘new comment’ under the ‘Review’ tab in the ‘Comments’ section. Write your comment, close the box and continue working.

2. How to delete a comment:

When you write a comment, the ‘Comments’ section will expand to include ‘Delete’, ‘Next,’ and ‘Previous’. Find and highlight your comment, and select ‘Delete’ and you will be able to delete your comment. If you have not highlighted a comment, pressing ‘Delete’ will bring up a list so you can locate the relevant comment from here.

Well, that may seem like a lot to take in but this information can be useful in a number of ways, making you aware of exactly what technical methods a proofreader goes through in checking your work and why it can be so useful. Maybe alternatively, these tips will give you the confidence you needed to do the best job possible in proofreading your own work.