How Not to Get Fired As a Proofreader


Have you heard of the rather touching expression: “NO WAR IS BAD”. This is the message relayed by a king to his army in a battle. About 100 of his subjects had just fallen at the hands of the enemy, and the commandant, therefore, thought it wise to ask the king for his advice on the next step. The king promptly instructed his writers to communicate that he saluted his soldiers for their courage, whether dead or alive. The letter was promptly prepared and delivered to the commandant on the front line.

The soldiers continued to fight until only three of them were left. The commandant was one such warrior, although badly injured.

The king was astonished by the small number of soldiers who had returned and was ready to punish them further. They had gone against his directive but fortunately still had the letter from the king which read: “NO WAR IS BAD”. However, the king’s message to the soldiers was actually “NO, WAR IS BAD”.

As in this story, serious consequences can arise from the mistakes of a proofreader.

A proofreader should be equipped with the necessary skills to help him or her refine and polish written works so that the intended meaning is clear, and the grammar and spelling correct.

As with most things human, imperfection raises its ugly head from time to time, but there are some mistakes a proofreader must avoid at all costs. 

Missing Errors

It is important to bear in mind at all times that a proofreader’s job is to make life easier for the client. To deliver optimal performance and satisfaction, excellent error spotting skills are imperative. As with the story above, adding a comma in the right place would have produced an entirely different situation.

Pay attention to the smallest detail, especially where spelling and grammar are concerned.

a Sample Edit


a Sample Edit


Missing Deadlines

No-one wants to lose out on work, and it is often tempting to agree to unrealistic deadlines to secure the job. While a bit of pressure can be a good thing and may present an image of responsibility and dedication, it is counter-productive to make false promises when accepting a job, as the proofreader’s reputation is bound to be damaged in the long run if the work fails to be delivered on time.

More importantly, clients are likely to have made plans tied to the agreed deadline. Missing out on a deadline means that the plans of others will be compromised and it is essential that the lines of communication are kept open so that the client is fully aware of the proofreader’s progress.

Lack of Effort

One thing that sets a good proofreader apart is his or her ability to make corrections while ensuring the smooth flow of text to avoid disjointed communication. A great deal of effort is required on the part of the proofreader if the client’s work is to flow unimpeded. The main aim is to ensure that the final text is well-structured and easy to understand.