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Are Proofreaders Still Needed?


Are Proofreaders Still Needed? 

While recent AI trends and grammar tools will claim that they replace freelance proofreaders, there are still plenty of reasons why AI simply can’t entirely replace humans. So, are proofreaders still needed in many publishing industries? Yes, professional proofreaders are here to stay!

Artificial Intelligence can’t (and never will) understand the nuances of language or grasp specialized industry knowledge like a human can. AI also can’t proofread sensitive or confidential materials, like legal documents, because sending confidential information to an AI chatbot is a breach of privacy and poses many security risks. 

Why Are Proofreaders Still Needed? 

Why are proofreaders still needed

Considering a career in proofreading? Then you’ve probably had at least one relative, friend, or family member put on their “tinfoil hat” and warn you that AI will soon be replacing proofreading (and humans) entirely *Alexa, play dystopian music*.

Although the rise of AI may seem alarming, rest assured that Morpheus won’t be at our doorsteps any time soon. Human proofreaders are still needed and will continue to be needed for years to come. 

We can also confidently say that online proofreading jobs, including entry-level proofreading jobs, will always be in abundance. Online proofreading platforms are even being created to this day, like our freshly launched Hire A Proofreader platform!

So, why are we so confident that proofreaders are here to stay? Here are just a few of the reasons:

AI Can’t Comprehend the Nuances of Language

While artificial intelligence can detect spelling errors and basic grammatical errors, it can’t understand the nuances of the English language like a successful proofreader can. 

For example, AI can’t accurately identify when a writer purposefully breaks grammar rules for dramatic effect — a technique that is prevalent in literary works. AI also can’t pick up on nuances in a piece of writing such as context-specific formatting changes, accents in dialogue, or jarring shifts in the tone or style. 

The creativity and nuances of language and culture will always be changing and affecting each other. The human context of writing, especially creative writing, just can’t be mimicked effectively by AI. 

AI Lacks Contextual Understanding 

Artificial Intelligence lacks the ability to truly comprehend the meaning behind what has been written. 

Unlike humans, AI can’t understand why sentences are phrased in certain ways, why the author has chosen to use those specific words, or why paragraph structures can vary. This means an AI tool may make proofreading suggestions that actually take away from the author’s intended message. 

For example, if an author is quoting Shakespeare and using Shakespearian English to make a point, many grammar and proofreading tools will flag the section or attempt to change it to match the form and format of the surrounding content. As a human, we understand that some breaks in form are referential or necessary for artistic license. 

AI Doesn’t Have Subject-Specific Knowledge 

Many professional proofreaders specialize in specific areas (aka proofreading niches) and spend years honing their knowledge. They often have degrees or have enrolled in online courses related to the subjects they’re proofreading and are well-versed in the relevant lingo and the latest industry happenings.

In comparison, AI lacks subject-specific knowledge and can only help with broad, general edits. It will never be able to catch as many mistakes as a proofreader, who specializes in the area, can. For example, a medical proofreader would immediately be able to tell if an author has spelled a medication incorrectly, while this could go completely undetected by an AI proofreading tool. 

Similarly, court transcript proofreaders are trained to work within the context of spoken-word testimonies and understand how spoken-word conventions differ from standard publishing guidelines. An AI tool would struggle to understand and correctly catch grammatical errors and context clues within the transcripts. 

AI Can’t Effectively Adapt to Style Guides 

Artificial Intelligence has some familiarity with style guides like APA and Chicago. However, applying them effectively is a whole different matter. Style guides have plenty of rules that are subject to debate, and whether to use or ignore these rules ultimately depends on factors like the client’s preferences and the written medium.

AI also can’t adapt to style guides that aren’t publicly available. Many companies, publishers, and clients have their own dedicated in-house style standards, which proofreaders must familiarize themselves with and adhere to closely. 

While it’s technically possible to teach AI software the rules of style guides it isn’t familiar with, most in-house documents like this are subject to confidentiality and cannot be shared online (cue our next point).

AI Can’t Navigate Confidentiality 

Professional proofreaders are often expected to review documents that contain sensitive or confidential information, particularly if they’ve specialized in a niche such as transcript proofreading where they must work with confidential court transcripts. 

These private documents should never be shared anywhere else, including on AI software, because there’s a risk of their information leaking. As AI tools that don’t retain user information are few and far between, legal and medical professionals simply cannot guarantee that confidential information will be kept private. For these professionals, it isn’t a question of preference, but a legal obligation.

Many clients also require you to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) or other forms of confidentiality agreements, and using third-party AI tools puts you in breach of these legally binding contracts. (With this in mind, as a proofreader, it’s so important to consider the tools that you use while proofreading to make sure that you are abiding by your legal contracts.)

AI Can’t Elevate Content with Creative Suggestions

Providing creative suggestions is primarily an editor’s responsibility, but that doesn’t mean proofreaders don’t have to occasionally give their own input. For example, proofreaders often have to adjust formatting to improve clarity and coherency — something that requires creative thinking, a nuanced understanding of the intended audience, and knowledge of the author’s preferences.

AI can’t match the creative mind of a human in all its complexity, nor can it provide proofreading suggestions that are specifically tailored to the author’s needs like a human proofreader can. Part of creating a professional relationship involves understanding client needs and being proactive with suggestions and work that will fit expectations. AI tools simply cannot match this. 

The Evolution of Proofreading With Technology

The evolution of proofreading with technology

While it’s clear that artificial intelligence won’t replace human proofreaders, that’s not to say AI won’t impact the industry. The digital age has already shown just how much new technological advancements can cause shifts in the way proofreaders work. 

Proofreaders now have the means to work remotely for companies and clients (as freelancers) all around the world. They also have access to computer-assisted software like spell checkers that help to speed up their workflow. 

The rise of the web has even caused a shift in the type of content proofreaders review. From social media posts, infographics, and website copy to self-published e-books and online newsletters, there are so many new forms that proofreaders must familiarize themselves with to keep up. 

Put simply: the proofreading industry is everchanging thanks to technology. Proofreaders must adapt and grow with these changes to stay relevant and competitive, and that includes adapting to the changes AI-powered technologies will continue to bring. 

Using AI to Help Proofreaders

Using AI to help with proofreading

“Learning to work with AI and appreciate its capabilities, rather than fear it, will truly help transform your career for the better.”

While it may seem intimidating, artificial intelligence won’t limit your opportunities as a proofreader — it can actually expand them! There are plenty of AI-powered tools that can enable you to proofread more efficiently — allowing you to free up time to find more clients, hone your skills, and expand your knowledge.

Some of the PA team’s favorite AI proofreading tools include:

  • Grammarly: An AI writing tool that can help speed up your workflow by providing automated corrections, live rephrasing suggestions, and predictive content generation. 
  • ProWritingAid: Another AI writing tool that provides real-time guidance and editing suggestions while you proofread. While both tools are similar, ProWritingAid does offer a more in-depth analysis of the actual writing. The tool provides detailed reports on aspects such as readability, sentence length variation, and consistency
  • Hemingway Editor: An editing tool that detects and visually highlights clunky sentences, poor word choices, excessive adverb usage, and passive voice.

AI tools can also help with other more tedious, time-consuming work tasks, such as organizing your daily schedule (ClickUp) and managing invoices (FreshBooks). 

Our team has actually compiled a whole list of fantastic business tools that will help proofreaders improve their workflows! You’ll be surprised at the amount of AI tools that are out there and how helpful they can truly be. 

Just remember not to get too swept away by artificial intelligence. While AI tools can help you save time and work more efficiently, they aren’t perfect by any means. (Also, don’t forget to consider confidentiality agreements before using AI tools in your work.)

AI should certainly never be used as a replacement for human proofreading. As we touched on earlier, AI can’t read between the lines and pick up on the subtle nuances within content, nor properly cater proofreading suggestions to the author’s specific needs, style guide, and preferences. 

AI writing tools have also been known to provide inaccurate information (also called hallucinations) or “correct” mistakes that aren’t actually mistakes.

One of our team members tested out an AI editing tool today and was told that her own last name was spelled incorrectly!

Why AI can't proofread legal documents

Legal documents often contain highly sensitive information that could have disastrous consequences if leaked publicly — think names, addresses, medical histories, convictions, and business dealings.

While many people believe that the information they submit to a third-party AI tool will be kept private, this is rarely ever the case. AI tools often collect their users’ personal data, including the content they submit. Just take a close look at ChatGPT’s terms and conditions, which you agree to the moment you use their services:

“We collect Personal Data that is included in the input, file uploads, or feedback that you provide to our Services… If you communicate with us, we collect your name, contact information, and the contents of any messages you send.” (OpenAI)

So, there’s always a chance that the content you submit to an AI tool will be shared publicly, whether by the organization directly or because of data breaches from malware attacks or bugs. 

In fact, leaks have already happened. A glitch back in 2023 allowed certain users to see the titles of other users’ chat histories. 

AI generative content tools also learn from input responses. This means that the content you submit will potentially be used by the AI software to answer future related queries others have. There’s no way to control when or how the software interprets and shares the information provided, and who will have access to it. 

And, even if the information is kept entirely private, you still shouldn’t rely on AI to proofread legal documents. AI tools can’t accurately adhere to legal style guidelines, navigate technical jargon, or fact-check information. 

What’s more, certain legal documents like court transcripts contain direct quotes from individuals. These quotes are usually written in a way that reflects the speaker’s tone, accent, and pauses — all qualities that an AI tool cannot pick up on and will wrongly detect as grammatical errors. 

AI tools also can’t comprehend court shorthand or identify mistakes created by computer-assisted translation (CAT) software. Only a trained transcript proofreader is able to identify these nuances.

ChatGPT Errors When Proofreading

ChatGPT errors while proofreading

We totally understand that it can be hard to believe AI isn’t going to replace professional proofreaders, especially with news headlines like “AI Apocalypse” making the rounds online.

However, you don’t have to take our word for it. ChatGPT has proved by itself why AI isn’t infallible and human proofreaders are here to stay! Below are just a few examples of ChatGPT missing the mark:

  • Two New York lawyers were recently fined $5,000 after submitting a legal brief with fake court citations generated by ChatGPT.
  • A recent study found that ChatGPT agreed with incorrect statements up to a ¼ of the time… And just recently, ChatGPT drew from misinformation and generated false answers about the presidential debate. 
  • ChatGPT failed to give satisfactory answers to almost 75% of questions about prescription drug usage, with some of its answers even causing potential harm if the user followed the information. 

Here’s one for fun! Can you spot what’s wrong with this answer? (Reddit)

We’ll finish up with Chat GPT’s own opinion on whether AI will replace proofreaders: 

We gave ChatGPT the prompt: “Will artificial intelligence replace human proofreaders in the future?”

It answered:

“Artificial Intelligence will enhance and streamline the proofreading process by automating routine tasks, but it is unlikely to fully replace human proofreaders due to the complexities of context, nuance, and creative judgment that AI struggles to replicate.”

There you have it., Even AI, itself, isn’t convinced that it’ll replace human proofreaders in the future.

Feel free to share any other awkward ChatGPT fails that you’ve personally experienced or spotted online in the comments below!

***

When you’re ready to start your proofreading business, check out our General Proofreading and Transcript Proofreading courses! Each course provides an industry-respected proofreading certificate of completion, which you can show to prospective clients as proof of your training.

Not sure if proofreading is right for you? Check out our FREE webinar or our FREE 7-day course to see if you would make a good fit!


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