If you are wondering how to ensure your report or essay is as good as it can be, finding a skilled and reliable English language proofreader is easier said than done, however, the following should help act as a guide on how to source and when to use a proofreader.

A good English proofreading service should offer a comprehensive check of your document in either British Standard or American Standard English of spelling, grammar, sentence contextualisation and repetitive wording. If the service includes editing (whether that be on paper or editing online), you should look to have the flow of the writing improved where necessary. Professional editing includes common phraseology, proverbs and sayings being checked for correct usage and words that are used incorrectly or sentences that are unclear should be changed or rearranged. Each proofreader has his or her own standards and should inform you of these, in clear terms, before commencing work. These are very different services to writing services or essay writing services, whereby copy is written from scratch.

Most proofreaders offer online editing and charge a set amount based on the number of words in your document and the turnaround time, and most professionals will require either a sample of your writing or to see the document in advance before quoting on a job.

Therefore, you need to ensure that your proofreader is up to the editorial job. Proofreading requires patience, attention to detail and, rather obviously, a thorough understanding of the rules that govern his or her language; it is not simply a matter of crossing the ‘t’s and dotting the ‘i’s. It can be a laborious task requiring hour after hour of concentration, not only reading and understanding the text within an often complex dissertation, but simultaneously thinking ‘how is this written and can it be written better?’ Understanding the overall meaning of the text and being able to improve it without altering that original meaning requires an ability to comprehend a wide variety of subjects, a good level of education (post graduate qualifications are usually the minimum for editors) and skill at writing. That combined with good time management skills means that not everyone who can read can proofread.

There are many sound reasons for proofreading or copy editing your text, both within the business world and academia. For instance, a website that is poorly written and that lacks clarity could mean potential customers quickly leave your site, largely because within five seconds of entering your site they need to know what is available, where and when. Equally, poor grammar and spelling will look hugely unprofessional and portray a lack of attention to detail in the service offered.

For tertiary level students, leaving linguistic mistakes in an essay or research proposal is inadvisable. By the time students reach universities in the UK, tutors expect that they should be able to write articulate essays which do not contain basic grammatical errors or garbled language. Failure to live up to these expectations could mean that even though your ideas may be brilliant, your writing skills will let you down. Therefore, having your essays or thesis proofread and, at the very least, having a grammar check is a worthwhile investment.

Equally for academics, sending off an article or research paper to a publishing house which lacks clarity and contains unwieldy wording, lessens your chances of publication. Many peer reviewers also bemoan the unintelligible language of their peers’ work and are inclined to give less favourable reviews if reading the paper is a feat of endurance. Editing copy is essential to ensure that articles are fit for publication.

Writing your thesis statement or lengthy thesis on your topic is often a labour of love and it is difficult to spot the small mistakes; a good proofreader can offer an unbiased second opinion on the clarity of your document. Therefore, having that professional eye cast over your text, editing and checking on your behalf, can be an invaluable service.

by Georgina Little



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