What Does a Freelance Proofreader Do?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 March 2014
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A freelance proofreader reviews written materials and makes corrections to the text. She may proofread legal documents, reports, court transcripts or news copy. A considerable number of proofreaders review fiction and non-fiction books, plays and scripts as well. As a freelancer, she commonly works at a home office or in a personally leased office in a building.

There are generally three types of proofreading projects, including format, comparison and content work. A freelance proofreader may provide all three types of service or specialize in one. Some projects require a combination of proofreading services and others necessitate only one type of review.

Format proofreading concerns the actual physical appearance of text. It normally applies to documents such as business letters, essays, scripts and reports. The main points of concern usually include consistency in paragraph size, margins and spacing. In some cases, outline formats and footnotes are checked for accuracy in form and syntax.

If she is comparison proofreading, the reviewer typically has two documents to scrutinize, the original and the draft. In this case, each character, punctuation mark and word in the two documents must be compared to assure they are identical. The original document is frequently handwritten or a typed copy with handwritten notes incorporated on each page.


Content proofreading is generally considered the most labor intensive. For these types of jobs, the freelance proofreader is customarily required to edit technical content as well as facts or the flow of the text. As she reads the work, she is generally expected to correct spelling, sentence structure, punctuation and consistency in terminology. Concurrent with making these technical edits, she is normally required to make sure the text is accurate if it is a non-fiction work that deals with irrefutable subjects, such as science or math. If it is fiction, her job is to ensure the thoughts and images in the text are logically arranged and project a coherent procession of events to the reader.

Aside from having an excellent command of language and in-depth knowledge of punctuation and grammar, a freelance proofreader is commonly required to have a good knowledge of word processing, editing and proofreading software. While some proofreading jobs still involve hard-copy documents, the majority of jobs are presented on CDs or submitted for review via e-mail. A number of proofreading software programs also offer interactive features that enable the author and proofreader to simultaneously view and edit the same document.

A high school diploma or equivalent is a normal educational requirement for a freelance proofreader. Most employers prefer a bachelor’s degree in language arts or journalism. Jobs in technical fields generally require familiarity with specific terms and vernaculars. A proofreading test is frequently part of the job application process.


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