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The Best Resources and Tools for Proofreaders That Make Work Easier

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We can’t even begin to tell you how many emails we get asking for our recommendations on reference books, iPads, focus and concentration techniques, whether or not we use styluses … the list is endless!

So we thought we’d put together a post with ALL of our recommended tools for proofreaders rolled into one. (Update:eWE keep getting more recommendations AND finding additional awesome proofreading tools to use, so we’ve included a few more in here for you!)

Books/References for Transcript Proofreading

Books and references for transcript proofreading

These are the three supplemental references we recommend for students enrolled in Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice course. We teach the course based on these manuals, and while the references are not required to succeed, they are great supplements and can be incredibly helpful.

Morson’s English Guide for Court Reporters, Second Edition — our entire proofreading program is based on this guidebook. It’s pricy because it’s been out of print since the mid ’90s, but it’s still highly regarded as the “bible” for court reporting punctuation.

One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated? — A VERY good reference and learning tool to help you overcome the common confusion related to hyphenation. (Really good for general proofreading students, as well!)

The Gregg Reference Manual — arguably the second most commonly used reference in the court reporting world, The Gregg Reference Manual offers a less expensive and more recent alternative to Morson’s Guide.

Hungry for more? Try these.

Legal Terminology for Transcription and Court Reporting — a textbook guide to the terminology you’ll find within transcripts. There are quite a few online references for these terms as well, but if you’re one of those people who likes a hard copy, this is a worthy investment.

The Court Reporter’s Reference of Commonly Used Words and Phrases — For all intensive intents and purposes, this is a SUPER handy book for helping identify the misuse of these words and phrases, too!

UPDATE: We am happy to announce that we have had the pleasure of interviewing THE Margie Wakeman Wells, grammar and punctuation expert for the court reporting industry! Her reference manuals have quickly made it to the top of our most recommended resources, and we invite you to head on over to see what she has to say!

Books/References for General Proofreading + Freelancing

Books and references for general proofreading and freelancing

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition (CMOS)  — This is the main text we referenced while creating the General Proofreading course. In fact, all the practice worksheets and essays in the class are based on CMOS. Having that style guide on hand is critical to your success in the class. It will help you through those practice exercises AND give you some hands-on practice doing research at the same time.

Depending on your preferences, you can purchase the hard copy or sign up for an online subscription. CMOS offers a FREE 30-day online trial, and after that, it’s only ~$39/year for the online version. It’s invaluable to your success not just in the course but in your general proofreading career!

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition — This is the second resource we used when creating the GP course. You have lots of options here! You can purchase the hard copy, access the dictionary for free online, or you can pay for the online yearly subscription to Merriam-Webster Unabridged as it also includes the Collegiate Dictionary and the Medical Dictionary. That subscription is $29.95/year.

Freelance Formula — one of the most common questions we get is whether or not we can help our students establish and manage their businesses as freelancers. The answer is YES, and this course has everything you will need to get your business off the ground in as little as 30 days!

Books and references for general proofreading and freelancing

McGraw Hill’s Proofreading Handbook (for general proofreading): This comprehensive guide provides you with all the tools of the trade, giving you valuable sample style sheets, proofreading checklists, a list of commonly misspelled words, and a chart of proofreading symbols — everything you need to dot your I’s and cross your T’s.

The Pocket Book of Proofreading — a handy mini-guide to the business side of things in the general proofreading world.

The Best Punctuation Book, Period is easily a favorite of ours. It’s an all-in-one reference for book, magazine, online, academic, and business writers. Author June Casagrande makes it super easy to look up sticky punctuation questions for all styles including AP, MLA, APA, and the Chicago Manual of Style.

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation is a robust book with real-world examples and excellent quizzes to test your knowledge.

A Bat Cannot Bat, A Stair Cannot Stare — Got kids? Buy them this book! It’s an EXCELLENT choice for kids and adults alike. You are guaranteed to learn something you didn’t already know about sound-alike words.

Spelling-Words-Well.com has a ton of free printable spelling activities for both adults and kids! They also have a world-class selection of affordable eBooks that can be used for homeschooling or just fun learning activities.

Improvement Workbooks

Find the Errors! Proofreading Activities and Find the Errors II — these books are technically designed for students, but we find the activities really useful to help train and sharpen your eyes. If you’re not quite the right fit for proofreading as a profession but would like to sharpen your eye for error (we think that’s a GREAT idea — proofreading is such an important skill for anyone in any industry!), we recommend these exercises to help you do so.

Phunny Stuph: Proofreading Exercises With a Sense of Humor — an activity book that helps you identify errors by proofreading jokes! Great for all ages.

Equipment We Recommend to Help You Get the Job Done

Essential tech equipment

Apple iPad mini — This is the iPad model that we recommend. For those who want the larger model, we recommend the iPad Air. If you don’t know, go to Best Buy or an Apple store and test out which one you prefer.

Otterbox Defender Series Case + Screen Protector Combo for iPad Mini — the very same case and screen protector system Caitlin has on her own iPad. Makes the iPad water resistant, shatter-proof (if you drop it, it won’t break!), and is made of a nice grippy material.

Case, Handle, and Stand all in one — this combo is not only a great deal, it makes it easy to hold your iPad mini in your hand or stand it up while you sit at a desk.

Aluminum Wireless Case + Keyboard — a really good-looking option for someone who prefers to use a keyboard with their iPad mini.

10-Pack of Styluses — No more greasy iPad screens! At $7.99 for 10, you can totally afford to have a stylus or two in every room or on every surface of your house!

Equipment to Help You Focus

Equipment to help you focus

Noise-Canceling Headphones — it’s a lot easier to “proofread anywhere” when the noises and sounds of your life aren’t always interrupting! (Note: These are just under $50 and get some really great reviews on Amazon! If you want to take it to the next level, you could get Bose’s QuietComfort noise-canceling headphones, but they aren’t cheap.)

Brown Noise .mp3 — You can use this $0.99 brown noise .mp3 when you’re in a noisy hotel room or when someone has the TV on.

Liquid Mind audio CDs/.mp3 — for those who like soothing, no-vocal music in the background to help them focus. We also like Spotify, but every 20 minutes or so, a commercial comes on and ruins your focus if you’re using the free version.

Looking for even more recommendations? Check out this resource page where we talk about our favorite tools and resources for building your website, running your freelance business, and growing as a freelancer!

Your Turn!

What’s your favorite tool or resource for proofreaders? Share below (links are welcome)! Let’s get a LONG list going!

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    1. I love this one! I got it at the recommendation of an instructor several years ago. It was worth every penny!

  1. This is a great list! Bookmarking this as I work my way through the course…

  2. Court Reporting: Bad Grammar/Good Punctuation, of course. And the accompanying workbook.

    1. Hi,
      I searched for this on Amazon and the book is almost $300 and the workbook is $50! Wow! Does this sound right to you?

          1. Yes, Margie’s website offers the book(s) for SOOOO much less! I went ahead and bought all of the textbooks so I could read them while saving up for the course. I was able to get the book, workbook, etc. in a bundle for $115.

  3. Thanks for the list. I’ll definitely put some of these books on my list to buy.

  4. How do the headphones do when you’re not playing the Brown Noise? Are they still good at canceling out extraneous noise?

  5. LOL! I am waiting on some money to clear so I can take your full course, and last night my husband was telling me I needed to contact you to see if there was anything I needed to get in addition to the Ipad. Imagine my surprise to open my email today and get this list. I just started giggling away! I am looking forward to getting started (hopefully next week!).

    1. HA! That is funny. Don’t feel like you need all of this stuff, though, seriously. Especially the books. If you want the most bang for your buck, and I had to get one book, it’d be Margie’s book + workbook combo. (I linked to her interview earlier in the comments on this post :-))

      1. This blog came just in time!
        On Margie’s website there is an option on the bundle. Do you advise getting the one for Reporters or the one for Scopists/Proofreaders/
        Teachers… ?

  6. I have two books that help with grammar and punctuation. The first one is “The only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need” by Susan Thurman. I also like “The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation” by Jane Straus eleventh edition. This one has exercises in it that I find helpful for me. 🙂

  7. Hi Caitlin!

    That’s a great list. I will definitely go into my bookmarks for easy access. What apps do you use on your iPad mini?

      1. iAnnotate isn't compatible with Macs ): Any other recommendations? Thanks for the great list!!

        1. Yes, there are other programs you can use besides iAnnotate. Xodo.com is an excellent, free PDF annotator. You can open any type of file (not just PDFs) using Xodo. There are several other programs you can use on your tablet like Adobe PDF, Drawboard PDF, Kami, Xodo PDF Reader and Editor, and ezPDF. You can also use MS Word Track Changes or Google Docs Editing Tools–which is a free program. We teach you the basics of iAnnotate, MS Word, and Google Docs with tutorial videos in Module 6 of the General Proofreading course, and provide links to the other programs so you can explore them as well.

  8. I was able to secure my iPad mini2 today with a decent amount of savings. While I’m not a huge Walmart shopper, I heard a spot on the news about that iPad version (16GB) being ON SALE there for $199 AND you can bundle it with the Otterbox case for $229. I’m super excited since I knew I wasn’t able to start the course until mid-November and still wanted to secure the iPad before beginning!! Woo-hoo for a bit of early holiday shopping (and savings)!

    1. Cheryl,
      I just jumped online and ordered the same as you got. Now I will go to bank and put money in to take course and pickup a few of the books mentioned. Getting excited!!!

  9. For some less “professional” practice, I’ve got an English-teacher-geek rec for you:) If you have an iAnything (yes, I enjoy making up words as well as correcting misused ones, lol) download “The Grading Game” from the App Store. Had it for a while, think was $1.99 or less!

    1. Oh my goodness, I am loving “The Grading Game!” I am hooked also?

  10. Oops! I got excited too soon! I was thinking this was a brand new blog post and when I read the comment about the iPad and OtterBox bundle, I knew where I’d go shopping today. Then I realized that was posted back in November. Well darn, maybe I’ll go shopping anyway…

  11. I can’t remember if my iPad is a 2 or 3. It’s 16GB wi-fi only, I’ve had it several years, I keep the software updated as Apple releases new versions, and the majority of those 16GBs are in use. I got it to use in place of my laptop for saving pictures (now they’re saved mostly on iCloud), FB, email, downloading and reading books, and playing games because it fits nicely on my lap while watching TV especially when my miniature doxies want to be up in my lap too. ? Do you use your iPad only for work or do you have other non-work apps on it? How much space do the apps you use for proofreading and the proofreading documents themselves use on average? I’m wondering if I’ll need to get another iPad just for proofreading or get a 32GB one that I can use for business and pleasure. Thanks for your help!

    1. Personally, I would think if your present iPad is full and you use it for your personal apps, books, and games then it would probably be a good idea to get a separate 16 GB iPad and use it only for the work.
      The work iPad would be just for your email, the downloaded training course, iAnnotate and any other work related apps. Also only bookmark forums or websites specifically that you’re using for advertising or finding jobs, and if using Facebook limit the notifications so it doesn’t interrupt you while you’re working.

      1. That sounds like a good idea. When the time comes, I may even think about getting a mini iPad for work instead of another full size one. Thanks!

  12. this is a great list and article! thanks for the great info Caitlin!

  13. Would the 10th Edition of Gregg Reference Manual be good?

  14. Do you foresee the program/software ever being made available for use on a tablet system other than an iPad?


    1. They have a similar app called Folia that is available on Android devices; however, it is severely limited and simply won’t work for this kind of work. As of right now, we just haven’t found an Android or Windows equivalent to iAnnotate. It’s really that good. 🙂

      1. Great. Just wanted to double check. Thank you so much for the information!

  15. Hi Caitlin,
    Do you still recommend the TruBrain drink supplement? I was wondering how much it really helped. It’s a little expensive but with my fibromyalgia I struggle with”brain fog” and I would love to try if you feel it’s really worth it. I remembered reading in a different article on your website but I didn’t see it listed here. Thanks so much for all the great info you are offering.

    1. I think it’s definitely worth a shot! It is full of so much good stuff that it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if it helped. proofreadanywhere.com/recommends/trubrain

  16. Couldn’t do my work without “Woe is I” by Patricia T. O’Conner. “Word Smart” put out by Adam Robinson and the Princeton Review is also a treasure. I also agree that “Elements of Style” is essential.

  17. Spotify has wonderful instrumental playlists as well, some curated to help you specifically focus. Others have white noise or nature sounds, etc. A bit pricey ($9.99/mo) for the monthly subscription to listen without commercials (or on mobile), but I’ve found it to be loads better than Pandora when working (in the office, at home, or on the go – you can “download” music onto your mobile device and listen to them without needing the internet. However, this feature goes away if you cancel/don’t renew your subscription). Just throwing it out there. 🙂

  18. If you are an Amazon Prime member, they have their own Music options… I typically listen to classical playlists, but they have the “brown noise” type tracks as well. I wouldn’t recommend joining Prime *just* for the music, but since I order almost everything from Amazon, the music portion is just an extra bonus!

    1. I’m listening to Classical for Focus right now!

  19. I work as a proofreader in the translation industry, so my most useful resource is a CAT (computer-aided translation) tool that permits me to compare source and target text segments, check consistency and glossary compliance and use a memory that suggests segments that have already been used so that I can assure consistency throughout several documents as well. Many colleagues like Trados (http://www.sdl.com/cxc/language/translation-productivity/trados-studio/), but personally I also recommend Wordfast (http://www.wordfast.com/) and OmegaT, which is a free alternative (http://www.omegat.org/).

  20. One of the most frequent errors I find when proofreading texts is the use of the wrong prepositions. It’s also one of the hardest mistakes to correct, given how often we hear or read the wrong ones being used on a daily basis, even in published books and newspapers. That’s why one of my most indispensable tools is The BBI Dictionary of English Word Combinations by Benson, Benson & Ilson (John Benjamins Publishing Co.) It isn’t that well-known, but it is amazingly helpful. I wouldn’t be without it!

  21. As a potential student anticipating the “full” cost of investing in the course, and having read the suggestion in the 7-day intro that some items included be retained as hard copies for future reference, I had to include a printer.

    1. You can also save the PDF. Then you wouldn’t need a printer.

  22. Caitlin–

    I have real reservations about trying to proof on a iPad. This is due to my problems with my eyesight. I have lost central vision in one eye and my eye doc has frosted the lens in my glasses. The peripheral vision is still partly present but due to distortion is not reliable and conflicts with the other eye.
    At present, I proof with hard copy which I find sharper and easier to read.
    I’m thinking of purchasing a larger monitor with 2560×1440 resolution. Probably a 24-27 inch which pivots to portrait mode.
    Any thoughts on this? And is there a Windows equivalent of the software you recommend?

    1. Hi Julie,

      You might want to read Caitlin’s Why iPad article here: https://proofreadanywhere.com//why-do-you-recommend-an-ipad-which-one-should-i-get-why-what-if-i-dont-like-apple-what-if-i-already-have-an-android-can-i-work-on-my-laptop/

      In the article Caitlin notes that she can’t really recommend the Windows products for the sole reason that she doesn’t use them, so they’re at-your-own-risk kinds of things. I do know there is at least one student on the Facebook group who uses Windows, so you might do a search there. There are some reporters who prefer proofreaders who print out and read on paper, too, but that costs a LOT of money in printing costs.

      1. You can save a lot of money on printing costs with a one-time investment of an HP Smart Printer with Instant Ink. I got mine for less than $200 and it includes two years worth of FREE ink. Depends on the current specials, but even 1 year pays for itself.

  23. Though Caitlin states she has been using the iPad Mini 2 for a while, the Mini 4 is now available. Will the iAnnotate and other software still work well on the newest versions? They are a bit pricey, but if they would be a better investment in the longer term, then it might be worth it for me.

    1. As long as the iPad has iOS 9.0 or higher, you should be able to use iAnnotate with it. 🙂

  24. If I took the full course on proofreading how would I go about finding a job after?

    1. The course does include a thorough marketing module and tons of great tools for finding clients. Our grads build successful businesses with the tools and support provided. You can read some of their stories here: https://proofreadanywhere.com//…/test…/student-spotlight/

  25. Need help. Cannot find “The Grading Game” at the App store.. Is there a company or producer name involved?

  26. Hello! I just want to give you a big thumbs up for the great information you have
    here on this post. I will be returning to your blog for more soon.

    1. That’s great! I’m glad you found the information helpful. 🙂

  27. My major resource tool for proofreading is Pinterest.I'm just feeling very lucky and privileged to be a part of a big tribe of proofreading.Thanks Caitlin for not giving up on me.

  28. Check out The Free Dictionary by Farlex. I found their online site first. Then I downloaded their app and bought their pro version for $3.99.

    The Farlex Grammar is included in the pro version of the app.

    I must warn you, though: the Grammar is quite addicting.

  29. Hi! From what I'm seeing at the Apple Store, iAnnotate 4 requires iPad OS 13.0 or higher so that would be an iPad mini 4 or 5 or an iPad Air 2 and others listed there. It seems to me in 2023, iAnnotate 4 wouldn't work with an iPad mini 1 or 2. Is that correct?

    1. We’re in the process of updating and editing the technical information in a lot of the articles on the blog. The edits will be coming soon. Thank you for your patience and understanding!

  30. Thank you for the great references. As practice in between projects I read a couple of books per week and seek errors. Some of the authors are brave (?) and ask if anyone locates an error. I comply. Auto journal writers seem to be the absolute worst (so far) as far as never proof reading anything prior to publishing on the web.

  31. I got a copy of One Word, Two Words, Hyphenated? by Mary Louise Gilman. It was published quite a while ago and I was able to get a copy from Amazon for about $16.

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