7 Essential Skills for Proofreading and Editing

7 Essential Skills for Proofreading and Editing

While you don’t need a specific degree to launch a successful proofreading and editing business, you do need certain skills. Proofreading and editing are distinct services, but lots of freelancers offer both, and they require many of the same skills.

If you’re motivated to learn, you can build the skills you need to get started. You probably have some of them already! In this blog post, we discuss seven skills that are essential for both proofreaders and editors:

  1. Attention to detail
  2. Strong spelling and grammar skills
  3. Excellent time management
  4. Independence
  5. Ability to stick to a style guide
  6. Good interpersonal skills
  7. Technological know-how

Plus, we share some practical tips for improving your proofreading and editing skills, whether you’re a beginner or already have some experience.

Skills for Proofreading and Editing

Editing and proofreading are both ways to polish a piece of writing, but they take place at different stages of the document publication process and have quite different functions.

If you’d like to learn more about the two roles and what they involve, we’ve got another blog post that explains the difference between proofreading and editing in detail. Here, we’re going to focus on some of the hard and soft skills you need for proofreading and editing.

1. Attention to Detail

When proofreading or editing, it’s important to focus on the task at hand. Both require concentration, as that’s the only way you’ll be able to spot errors or notice subtle edits that are needed. 

When proofreading and editing, it’s a good idea to work in a distraction-free environment, like a library or dedicated home office, and if your mind starts to wander, take a quick break to refocus.

2. Strong Spelling and Grammar Skills

A strong grasp of spelling and grammar is essential for any proofreader or editor – it’s their job to spot errors, after all! Although it’s important to have a solid understanding of spelling and grammar rules, you can also refer to reliable online or print resources, such as a dictionary or punctuation guidebook, to double-check any issues you’re unsure of.

3. Excellent Time Management

Proofreaders and editors often have tight deadlines, so they need first-rate time management skills. If you’re a freelancer, it can be especially difficult to stick to a schedule. 

While it can be tempting to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, only take on what you can effectively manage within a realistic timeframe. Otherwise, you risk missing deadlines or experiencing burnout. A healthy work–life balance is critical in any line of work, and being well rested increases productivity.

4. Independence

As a freelance proofreader and editor, you may be working on multiple projects at once – and since you don’t have a supervisor, self-motivation is vital to meet deadlines and stay organized. 

To keep track of your progress, it can help to break large assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks. And be sure to keep a detailed calendar or use project management software to keep track of your clients and jobs.

5. Ability to Stick to a Style Guide

A style guide is a crucial part of proofreading and editing, and different clients will provide their own specific guides for you to follow. A style guide includes guidance on referencing, vocabulary, formatting, tone of voice, etc. 

It’s important that you closely follow it when proofreading or editing, no matter what type of document you’re working on. A good tip is to have it open and accessible so that you can refer to it frequently as you work through the document.

6. Good Interpersonal Skills

As a proofreader or editor, you’ll need to market your freelance business and effectively communicate with clients. Interpersonal skills are an important part of the job, as you may develop long-term relationships with clients, and editors often review several drafts of a document throughout the editing process and provide feedback for each revision. 

As a freelancer, it’s a good idea to establish good working relationships with your clients because proofreading and editing businesses often grow from word-of-mouth recommendations.

7. Technological Know-How

A good understanding of the digital world is another key part of proofreading and editing. Although proofreading and editing mostly involve reading, you’ll need to know your way around word processing software (e.g., Microsoft Word) and online literary resources

Also, since much of the business side of freelancing is conducted virtually, such as over video conferencing or email, you’ll need to be familiar with these to communicate with clients (and get paid!).

How to Improve Your Proofreading and Editing Skills

Whether you’re completely new to proofreading and editing or already have some experience in the field, it’s never a bad idea to refine your skills. If you’re already working as a proofreader and/or editor, taking part in continuing professional development (CPD) is a great idea.

CPD can take many forms, like being mentored, reading books, watching training videos, taking courses, or gaining a new qualification. It usually involves a mixture of activities, depending on your particular career goals.

If you’re looking to start a new career in proofreading and/or editing, your first step should be to research what the job entails and what it takes to get started. Think about your own skills and experience and how they compare to the skills needed for the job – what are your strengths? What skills do you need to develop or improve? You can then set goals and come up with ways to fill any gaps.

For example, you might consider undertaking a professional training course. Many training courses are CPD accredited, making them a great way to showcase your skills and eagerness to learn to potential employers or clients.

Becoming A Proofreader

Our Becoming A Proofreader and Becoming An Editor courses are both CPD accredited and cover everything you need to know to start a freelance career as a proofreader or editor. Plus, you can:

  • Learn at your own pace with lifetime access to course material
  • Put your learning into practice with interactive elements, such as videos, try-it-yourself exercises, and quizzes
  • Get one-on-one support with our friendly, knowledgeable tutor team, whenever you need it

You can buy each course individually or buy them as a bundle and save 15%. And that’s not all: If you pass our Becoming A Proofreader and Becoming An Editor courses with a distinction score of at least 80%, you’re guaranteed work with our partner company, Proofed. Sign up for a free trial today!

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Join the Conversation

Eli Murphy says:
February 24, 2023 at 6:53AM
I highly appreciate the crucial abilities you've mentioned in your writing. For new editors and proof readers who are eager to learn and provide users with proofreading services, it is quite advantageous. Every point, from strong spelling skills to time management, that you have mentioned in the writeup is so apt.
    Knowadays says:
    February 27, 2023 at 10:25AM
    Thanks Eli! We're pleased you found it helpful!

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