Don't Do It Yourself
Proofreading What You Need to Know

Proofreading Ultimate Guide: What You Need to Know

You’ve made it! You’re at the final step of the editing process. Congratulations!

As your friendly neighborhood writer and editor, I’m here to walk you through this final step before you send your writing out into the world.

Let’s take a look at what you need to know about proofreading.

What Is Proofreading?

What Is ProofreadingProofreading is the final grammar check before you send your writing out into the world.

It really is that simple.

The bulk of the editing work happens before this stage. Your novel or article needs developmental, substantive, and copy/line editing before proofreading.

This stage is all about putting the final touches on a well-edited piece of writing.

How Long Does Proofreading Take?

Proofreading takes the shortest amount of time out of all the stages. Depending on genre and length, it can take around two weeks to proofread an 80,000-word novel.

If you’re looking at proofing an article, it can take about 20 to 40 minutes for a 1,000-word article.

What Kind of Writing Needs Proofreading?

No matter how long or short your piece of writing is, it must be proofread if it’s going out to an audience. I’ll even go so far as to say that you should proofread any piece of writing, even if it’s as small as a text or an email.

How Much Does Proofreading Cost?

How Much Does Proofreading CostProofreading is usually the least expensive of the editing services you can purchase. According to Reedsy Marketplace, an 80,000-word novel would cost $1,184.

If you just need an article proofed, you’ll be looking at $13-$20 per 1,000 words, depending on how quickly you need the job done.

The cost really depends on several factors: genre, length, complexity, and the editor’s experience.

The good news is that with novels, you can bundle line editing and proofreading, allowing you to save a ton. Consider that you can bundle the two services for $1,752. Line editing alone costs $1,672 alone. That’s a ton of savings.

How to Hire a Proofreader

How to Hire a Proofreader

Now that you have got a good idea of what a proofreader does and how long it should take, let’s take a look at how to hire a proofreader for your project.

Let me be clear that if you are self-publishing your novel, you really must hire a proofreader. It’s unprofessional to put out a book that has not been proofread. The market is entirely too competitive for an unedited book to have any sort of success. I’ve seen too many books with comments and negative reviews about how the text is just riddled with grammatical errors. Don’t let your book face that kind of scrutiny.

What Qualities to Look For

A proofreader must carefully review your text for grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax, and formatting errors. A proofreader's job is to ensure the text is error-free and presents a polished and professional image.

Another area proofreaders will look at is consistency in formatting, style, and tone. They should check that headings, font styles, and other formatting elements are consistent throughout the document.

Lastly, proofreaders look at layout and design. In some cases, a proofreader may also be responsible for reviewing the layout and design of a document, such as when editing a book or magazine. They will check that images and graphics are placed properly and that the overall design of the document is visually appealing.

Potential Interview Questions To Ask

Here are some interview questions that you can ask when hiring a proofreader:

  • What experience do you have as a proofreader?
  • What methods do you use to ensure that you catch all errors in a document?
  • How do you handle situations where you are unsure about a correction or change to the text?
  • How do you stay current with changes to grammar and punctuation rules?
  • Can you describe a time when you caught an error that could have had serious consequences if it had gone unnoticed?
  • How do you prioritize your workload when you have multiple documents to proofread at once?
  • What tools and resources do you use when proofreading a document?
  • How do you work with writers or editors who may have different opinions or ideas about how a text should be written or formatted?
  • How do you handle deadlines and high-pressure situations when proofreading a document?
  • How do you ensure that you maintain a high level of accuracy and attention to detail when proofreading lengthy or complex documents?

Proofreading Certifications and Associations

When you’re looking at editors, it’s important to consider degrees or certifications. There are tons of editing certifications and degrees out there. Being a journalism or English major is pretty standard for proofreaders.

Editorial associations are a great way to find potential editors. You also know that if an editor belongs to one of those associations, they take pride in their work and stay on top of continuing education in the editing industry.

Here are some associations to check out:

These associations have job boards where you can advertise your project or job. So, definitely check them out to see if you can find a good fit for your needs.

Best Proofreading Services

Best for Basic Editing & Proofreading

PandaCopy Logo Small

Panda Copy

  • Best for those who have a steady flow of new content
  • Great for cleaning up AI-generated content
  • Offers basic proofreading as well as developmental editing
  • Get back "clean" documents with edits already made, no need to approve or deny

Try PandaCopy

Best for More In-Depth Editing



  • Offers single, one-off document editing
  • Also offers unlimited editing subscriptions
  • Editors will "humanize" AI-generated content
  • You can see all edits and recommendations for you to approve or deny, so you still have full control of the copy

Try EditorNinja

Panda Copy and EditorNinja

Panda Copy [Review] and EditorNinja [Review] are professional editing firms that provide editing services for various types of content. They have teams of editors who are skilled in editing a wide range of written material, including articles and longer texts such as novels.

The selection of editors for your project is done internally, meaning you may not have the option to choose the editor you prefer. However, both services manage the hiring process for you, which saves you time and effort.

Their editing services are exceptional. Just make sure that the services you hire make sense for your budget.


If you're looking for a freelance editor who specializes in novel-length texts, Reedsy is an awesome place to start your search. It's a bit like Fiverr in the sense that editors offer their services and testimonials, but you get to do the hiring.

Unlike other editing services, like EditorNinja or Panda Copy, you have to do a bit of research and interviewing before you hire your editor through Reedsy Marketplace. But don't worry – Reedsy makes finding the right fit for your project easy.

All the editors on Reedsy have been thoroughly screened to ensure that they're top-notch professionals. Many of them have worked for major publishing houses or small press publishers, so you know you're in good hands.

And it's not just editors you'll find on Reedsy Marketplace – you can also connect with book cover artists and other publishing professionals. It's a one-stop shop for all your book-publishing needs.

So, if you're looking for a great resource to help you publish your book, definitely check out Reedsy. It's a fantastic tool to have in your back pocket.

How To Prepare for Proofreading

How to Prepare for ProofreadingBefore you get to proofreading your text, you need to go through the other stages of editing.

You should have your overall structure in place, your scenes and transitions spruced up, and your sentences and word choice on point. In short, your text needs to be ready to publish.

Proofreading is just meant to catch mistakes that got through the other rounds of editing.

Now, I’ll repeat that if you’re looking to self-publish, you definitely want to hire a proofreader. But before you hire that proofreader, do your own round of proofreading before you send it to your professional proofer. You want to send them your most polished piece of work to get the most value out of your investment and to ensure that you give your readers the best you have to offer. The market is too competitive to do anything less.

How To Do Proofreading

How to Do ProofreadingProofreading your text will probably feel pretty familiar to you. Checking for grammar and syntax errors has undoubtedly been drilled into everyone from high school English classes.

I only have two tips to check grammar: give yourself ample distance from your text and read your text aloud.

Giving yourself distance when self-proofreading (proofreading your own work) just means ignoring your novel for at least a month or a day or two for an article. You really want to come to the text with fresh eyes so that you can catch as much as possible. Once you’ve caught everything you can, you can send it off to your editor.

Reading your text aloud is a staple in my editing process and something I encourage all of my students to do. You can read aloud yourself or have another person (this is really the best option) read to you. If you don’t have anyone, you can have Word, Scrivener, or Google Docs read aloud to you. The reason I suggest this step is because your ear is tuned to correct grammar. Your ears are going to find those mistakes as you follow along on paper.

Now, if your grammar skills are a bit rusty, you can definitely use tools like Grammarly and ProWritingAid. They won’t always be right, so don’t trust them blindly. But they’re incredibly helpful.

You can also check out resources from GrammarGirl, which include a podcast and articles about common grammar issues.

Between all these resources and tips, you’re going to be well on your way to becoming a grammarian.

What To Do After Proofreading

What To Do After ProofreadingSimply put, after your text is proofread and you’ve implemented those changes, you’re ready to publish.

You might still need to make sure your article’s images are in place or that your book cover is uploaded properly, but as far as writing goes, you’re ready to show off your beautifully polished words to the world.

You’ll want to celebrate—as you should!—for getting your text this far and perhaps definitely take a much-needed break.

Proofreading vs. Other Types of Editing

Proofreading vs Other Types of EditingProofreading vs Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is a type of editing that focuses on the overall structure and content of a document. This type of editing involves making suggestions for revisions to improve the flow, structure, and organization of a document. Developmental editing is typically done before proofreading.

Proofreading vs Line Editing

Line editing is a type of editing that focuses on improving the style and clarity of a document. This type of editing involves making revisions to sentence structure, word choice, and tone. Line editing is typically done after developmental editing but before proofreading.

Proofreading vs Substantive Editing

Substantive editing is a type of editing that focuses on improving the content and structure of a document. This type of editing involves making revisions to the organization, clarity, and overall message of a document. Substantive editing is typically done before proofreading.

Proofreading vs Copy Editing

Copy editing is a type of editing that focuses on improving the grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting of a document. This type of editing involves making revisions to the mechanics of a document. Copy editing is typically done after substantive editing but before proofreading.

Proofreading vs Editorial Assessment

Editorial assessment is a type of editing that involves providing feedback on a document's strengths and weaknesses. This type of editing typically involves a high-level overview of a document, including suggestions for revisions and improvements. Editorial assessment is typically done before developmental editing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is proofreading worth it for either human- or AI-generated content?

Whether you’re looking at human-written content or a text that an AI has generated, proofreading that text is not just worth it but also vital to staying competitive. Typos and grammar mistakes are a sure way to lose credibility with your readers.

Who should use proofreading services?

Anyone who might be a little too busy to tackle proofreading on their own or someone who isn’t great with grammar should look into hiring a proofreader or an editing service like Panda Copy or EditorNinja.

What software do editors use for proofreading?

I recommend using either ProWritingAid or Grammarly to help you tackle grammar problems. PWA is better for creative writing, while Grammarly is better for essays or articles.