Are You A Born Proofreader? Questions, Tools and the Online Flood of Words: Part I


Before you leave the house, do you double and triple check lights, stove top knobs, and door locks, over and over, while everyone sits in the car waiting? Before you send an e-mail, do you re-read it six times to make sure it’s perfect in every way – no typo’s, no texting shortcuts – you even check your emoticons! When you were in college, did you experience a steady stream of fellow students requesting that you ‘look at’ their papers and ‘make any changes you’d like’ – (translation = fix the paper, edit it, make it better!) If you plead guilty to any of the above ‘crimes of compulsive obsession’, then you’d probably make an excellent online proofreader or editor.

With the deluge of words flooding onto the web, there is a lot of editing and proofreading work that needs to get done. You could be the one to do it, and earn good money in the process. This article will identify some of the tools and talents of the trade, and highlight some specifics of the ongoing flood of online materials that may benefit from your editor’s eye.


A proofreader’s job is to find those mistakes that everyone else missed – whether these errors be spelling, mechanics, punctuation, or grammar usage. Proofreaders, AKA – ‘daring document delvers’ are experts in, and derive a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from, finding and correcting others’ writing omissions and mistakes.


Now, before you go off to become the answer to every writer’s dream, and before you can begin to earn money – (let’s not forget why you’re reading this!) – keep in mind the wisdom of the expression: “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.” First you need to arm yourself with a few tools of the trade.

Start with the Proofreader’s Bibles. There are two recognized versions. The Modern Language Association’s Writing Style Handbook and the American Psychological Association’s Handbook are essential tools for proofreading any type of formal paper, such as a thesis or term paper.

I highly recommend two inexpensive, user-friendly, simplified guides – MLA: THE EASY WAY and APA: THE EASY WAY, both by Peggy and Timothy Houghton. To maximize your marketable skills, you’ll need to master both formats and styles, depending upon your clients’ needs.

I also find the Quick Study APA/MLA Guidelines helpful. It’s a four-page, double-sided laminated ‘cheat sheet’ that highlights the most common features of both the MLA and APA formats.


SO… Do whatever you need to do – take a course, find an on-line tutorial, invest in a book – to become as proficient as possible with this indispensable tool.

The more adept you become at using MS Word, the more efficient you’ll be – i.e., the more money you’ll make!

In particular, become best friends with MS Word’s Spell Check and Grammar Check. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn the powerful editing features built into this program. Become proficient at them all, including:


  • page layout,
  • use and control of styles,
  • citation insertion,
  • footnote formatting,
  • setting up a Bibliography
  • tagging headings and subheadings to create a Table of Contents,
  • inserting graphs, tables, charts and images,
  • inserting headers and footers,
  • editing markups,
  • and so much more.



It is deplorable to see and to hear how allegedly educated people slaughter the English language, both in their writing and their speech. We see and hear it daily, in newspapers, magazines, on the nightly news, and on talk shows. As Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” so disdainfully claimed, “Why, in America, they haven’t spoken it (the English language) for years!”

Again, there is a plethora of tools available to you as a proofreader. For starters, I would recommend The McGraw Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, or Handbook of English Grammar, Style and Writing, published by the Research and Education Association.

And again, you might want to keep handy copies of two Quick Study Guides – English Grammar and Punctuation and Common Misspelled and Confused Words.

So… you’ve been using MS Word for years, in college and grad school you slept with the MLA and APA manuals under your pillow, and you’re smarter than a 5th grader when it comes to ferreting out mechanical errors in language usage. Then most of the hard work is already done! Go ahead and prove it by proofing!

Now that you’re ready to become the web’s pre-eminent proofreader, let’s explore all the opportunities waiting for you to begin earning cash for your expertise with an online proofreading job. Part II will unlock the myriad needs for proofreader services, and here’s where you begin your work!

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