What Computing Skills Does a Proofreader Need?

What Computing Skills Does a Proofreader Need?

  • Sep 26, 2023
  • 7 min read

If you’re considering a career as a freelance proofreader, you probably know that you need a strong grasp of the English language and great attention to detail – but have you thought about your computing skills?

In the old days, a proofreader could get by with nothing but a red pen and a set of arcane symbols. Now, though, technology has changed everything. So, do you need to be a technical whiz kid to proofread in the modern world? Not quite, but you may need some computing skills.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at:

  • What computing skills are
  • Why they are important for proofreaders
  • Which computing skills you need as a proofreader
  • How to improve your computing skills

Let’s dive in!

What Skills Do You Need to Be a Proofreader?

You don’t need any particular degree or qualification to become a freelance proofreader, but you do need certain skills. For example: 

  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

If you’d like to learn more, we’ve got an entire blog post on the essential skills you need for proofreading and editing and how to improve those skills. In this post, though, we’re going to focus on technological or computing skills.

What Are Computing Skills?

Although every industry has different requirements, most jobs today require at least a basic grasp of computer skills. Put simply, computer skills allow you to use a computer and any software or applications associated with it effectively.

Most jobs will expect you to be familiar with:

  • Software such as Microsoft Office or Google Workspace 
  • Word processing programs such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs
  • Tools used to send and receive email messages
  • Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom

Some jobs may require more specific knowledge. For example, a marketer will need to be familiar with programs such as social media management tools and data analytics tools such as Google Analytics. A computer programmer will need to be familiar with programming languages and software used to model how code should be written.

Why Are Computing Skills Important?

In the modern world, technology is a big part of our lives. It impacts how we work, how we learn, and how we enjoy our free time. Broadly speaking, computer skills help us:

  1. Work more efficiently 
  2. Access information quickly and easily 
  3. Consider and solve complex problems
  4. Stay connected with others

This benefits proofreaders by: 

  • Helping them to navigate and correct texts quickly and effectively
  • Giving them access to resources for online research (for example, to check references or ensure technical or specialized content is accurate) 
  • Allowing them to network and communicate with clients (from anywhere in the world!) 
  • Allowing them to collaborate with clients on documents in real time 
  • Helping them to work with different file formats (and therefore work with a wider variety of clients)

In the next section, we’ll look at each of these points in more detail.

What Computing Skills Does a Proofreader Need?

1. Word Processing Software

As a proofreader, you’ll need to be familiar with word processing software such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs. 

Microsoft Word is the most popular word processor globally, and most clients will send you work in the .DOCX format. Additionally, Microsoft Word provides all the tools a proofreader needs, including:

Microsoft Word also boasts a range of extra features – the ability to change the default text direction, for instance – which can be useful when working on certain documents.

In other words, the better you know Microsoft Word, the simpler proofreading becomes.

2. Other Software and Document Types

We mentioned above that most clients will send you Microsoft Word documents for proofreading, but this isn’t always the case. As such, you may need to use other software, too. The collaboration tools in Google Docs, for instance, make it popular with business clients.

Other examples of document types and the programs you may need to use include:

  • Presentations and slideshows (PowerPoint, Google Slides)
  • Spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets)
  • PDFs of typeset texts or marketing materials (Adobe Acrobat Reader)

If you want to work in these formats, you’ll need to learn to use the relevant software. Remember to check which program a client has used before accepting a job, too!

3. Online Research Tools

There are various online tools that can help proofreaders conduct quick and effective research. These might be used to check unfamiliar terms, verify facts, or check the credibility of a particular source. You should be comfortable using:

  • Search engines to find information, verify facts, and explore any unfamiliar terms or concepts
  • Web browsers, which contain bookmarking and tab organization features that help you keep track of important resources and open multiple sources simultaneously for efficient research
  • Online dictionaries to confirm spellings or to check if a word choice is appropriate
  • Specialized glossaries and databases for technical or niche content
  • Online grammar and style guides 
  • Academic databases such as JSTOR, PubMed, or IEEE Xplore, which can be used to validate references and citations and ensure the content is supported by credible sources
  • Google Ngram Viewer to see how the usage and popularity of a word or phrase has changed over time

4. Communication and Collaboration Tools

Working freelance, you may never meet most of your clients face to face. But you will still need to communicate with them. Usually, in the modern world, this starts with email. However, some clients will prefer to talk via phone or video call.

It’s important, then, to have a basic understanding of email platforms (how to send and receive emails) and how to use voice and video-call tools effectively. 

5. Finance and Time Management Software

Finally, while not technically involved in the proofreading itself, most freelancers also use some time management and accounting software packages, including:

  • Time tracking apps like Toggl to help you record the hours you work
  • To-do list tools like Trello and Airtable to help you track progress on and prioritize individual jobs and tasks, thereby helping you manage your workload
  • Accounting software like Wave or QuickBooks to help you manage your finances and handle tasks such as invoicing clients and working out your taxes

It is up to you which of these to use (if you prefer to keep your accounts with a pen and paper ledger, then we can only salute your old-school values). But getting to know the tools available to freelancers can make admin simpler, thus letting you focus on the proofreading.

How to Improve Your Computer Skills

If you feel you don’t have all of these skills down yet, don’t worry! There are lots of things you can do to start building your computing skills and confidence. You can:

  • Take an online course. Many online platforms offer courses in computing skills, for example, word processing software.
  • Look for free tutorials and guides. Many tools and applications have extensive support available online.
  • Join online communities. There are many online communities and forums dedicated to proofreading, editing, and various computing tools. You can ask questions, exchange tips, and learn from others. 
  • Collaborate with others. Working with other proofreaders or professionals allows for knowledge sharing and exposure to different computing workflows.
  • Practice regularly. Practice makes perfect! Use word processing software and other applications frequently to become familiar with their functionalities and to become more proficient.

Becoming A Proofreader

Whether you’re a complete beginner or looking to refresh your skills, after taking our Becoming A Proofreader course you will be a confident, trained professional ready to start work. Why not give our free trial a go?

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Join the Conversation

terry gray says:
April 4, 2020 at 1:14PM
what if a person is not very familiar with any of these programs? I don't even have Excel or Microsoft office on my computer. do i need to take a full course of some kind in the use of all these programs before i even sign up for the proofreading course? also, why is this message making every word start with a capital letter? thanks.
    Proofreading Academy says:
    April 6, 2020 at 11:36AM
    Hi, Terry. Proofreading Academy's 'Becoming A Proofreader' course includes modules that cover how to use Microsoft Word for proofreading and formatting documents, and we suggest using MS Word to do the exercises in the course. Moreover, as long as you can use Microsoft Word, you will be able to work effectively as a proofreader: the other programs mentioned here are related to specific document types (e.g. PDFs or spreadsheets) or other aspects of freelance work (e.g. email, workload management), but they are not necessary for the course. As for the capitalisation, we'll look into this soon, but your comment seems to be displaying fine in its published form.

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