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Feature Article: Finding a Proofreader Is Easy If You Ask the Right Questions

July 05, 2022 1:00 AM | Administrative Manager (Administrator)

By Ruth Sternberg, NRWA Staff Writer

You know the feeling: You have worked hard on a resume or copy for a profile, and after you have read it 12 times (even printed it out and read it), you find a typo.

It’s hard to proofread your own work. When crafting our clients' materials, there is a lot to consider: spacing, punctuation, spelling, verb tense, formatting…the list is long.

That’s why many professional resume writers also pay proofreaders as a second layer of defense.

So, how do you find a good proofreader?

First, note that a proofreader is not the same as an editor. Their job is not to correct your choice of words or phrases or check your accuracy but to ensure that what you have crafted is error-free. Proofreaders identify grammar, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and formatting errors. But they do not address syntax or make the writing concise, clear, consistent, comprehensive, and correct.

Next, realize that an English degree does not necessarily make someone a good proofreader. It takes practice to get good at finding errors.

Some of our NRWA members shared suggestions to help you find the right proofreader.

1.      Start with your NRWA colleagues. 

“The biggest factor in choosing a proofreader for me was getting recommendations from people I know and trust,” says Annette Richmond, owner of Career Intelligence.

Paula Christensen, owner of Strategic Career Coaches, agreed but added that you can sometimes find great proofreaders among your own friends and family. She suggests asking people who are great with grammar to help you. You can train them to meet your specific needs.

2.      Check online resources such as marketplaces and professional associations: 

3.      When you find a viable candidate, here are some questions to help you vet them:
  • What style guides are you familiar with? The Chicago Manual of Style? The Gregg Reference Manual? The Associated Press Stylebook?
  • Have you written resumes yourself? This matters because resume writers leave out “the” or “an” before nouns. We have our own style designed to save space.
  • May I see a sample of your work? Ask for the pre-and post-proofed versions.

Alison King, a resume writer, proofreader, and owner of Copyedit Queen, suggests asking if the candidate has special training.

Check out Alison’s webinar, Needles in a Haystack: Tips & Techniques for Proofreading Your Own Work.

“For example, I have a copyediting certificate from the University of California’s San Diego's Division of Extended Studies,” she says. “It consisted of four core courses that involved lectures, assignments, and discussion board interaction, and it took me over a year to complete.”

4.      Next, consider their work structure and fees.

When are they available? What’s their turnaround time? How do they charge? Annette’s proofreader bills in 15-minute increments. But others bill by the hour or by the project length. Others will bundle a specific number of projects, which can help you control your costs.

Why You Need a Proofreader to Back You Up

Remember that typos are not always a sign of sloppiness. Psychologists tell us that we make them because we are focused on higher-order thinking—on the ideas, which are the most important aspect of writing, and not on the smaller details. So, take it as a sign that your brain is doing its job!

Just know that help is available to make sure all your “t’s” are crossed and your “i’s” dotted and your client’s name is spelled correctly! It can remove a lot of your stress.

Feel free to share your tips! What other considerations have helped you find proofreading help?


Ruth Sternberg, CPRW, CEIC, NCOPE, CCTC, is a resume writer and coach who has also worked as a journalist, editor, grant writer, and copywriter during her 37-year career. She owns Confident Career Search, equipping people across the age spectrum with the confidence and tools to make meaningful career transitions. She has been a member of the NRWA for two years and serves on the Public Image Committee. She recently moved from Columbus, OH, to Rochester, NY. Find her online at LinkedIn.com/in/navcoach.

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