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What Makes a Great Proofreader? [My Clients Tell All!]

What makes a great proofreader?

A few weeks ago, I sent out an email to a handful of my “favorite” reporters that I proofread for — these are the reporters consistently sending polished work and with whom I’ve worked for anywhere from six months to over four years!

I asked them the following question:

“What makes a great proofreader?”

Here’s how my clients (REAL court reporters) responded:

I love it when proofreaders…

  • …catch little details, especially on the title pages.
  • …notice inconsistencies, like when I capitalize a word and then, three pages later, I don’t.
  • …flag/highlight anything that doesn’t make sense so I can go back and re-listen to the audio.
  • …catch pesky inverted words (“I went the to store.”).
  • …are dependable, and if they can’t get the job done because of their heavy workload or whatever, they tell me upfront rather than return the job back unfinished or late.
  • …know some jobs are harder than others and some jobs take more time to proofread than others.

Some of my reporters also volunteered things proofreaders do that irritate them

I hate it when proofreaders…

  • … put in a lot of extra commas and stylish things.
  • … try to fix the grammar/syntax of a witness’s sentences.
  • don’t reply when I send them a job.
  • … don’t communicate when they’re really busy — which affects when I get my work back from them.

An overwhelming majority of my top reporters responded they loved the extra time they had to “report more” because they didn’t have to spend so much time reading their work over and over. Remember, they don’t get paid for proofreading!

They also echoed something I talk about extensively in the course: responsiveness! Reporters do not like having to follow up with or “chase” proofreaders to find out whether they received a job they sent.

Also, if you take too long with a job and they have to follow up with you on their job status, only to hear “Oh, I haven’t even started yet,” or “Actually, something came up. Can you find someone else?” — these things are SERIOUSLY the worst things you can do to your clients. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if those clients ditched you after something like that. It shows you’re distracted and/or not dedicated to your work.

To keep your clients, I recommend the following:

  • Always respond promptly to every email containing a job indicating you received it. If you take two days to respond to an email, it says a lot of not-so-good things about your reliability. Stay plugged into your email and text messages. I check my email about every 15 minutes or whenever I hear an alert. You can organize your inbox to make emails from clients easier to see, too.
  • Stick to your turnaround time. If you promise two business days, deliver on that promise. If for any reason you think you might not make a deadline, communicate with the client as soon as possible — even if you end up meeting the deadline after all.
  • Don’t sit on work. Try to complete the work you get as quickly as possible — it can pile up and overwhelm you if you’re a procrastinator.
What are your thoughts on what makes a great proofreader? What have your experiences been with your clients? Leave a comment below!!
Onward to excellence!

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  1. Good! I follow around 98% of what you’ve recommended. But it helped brush up my proofreading etiquette.

  2. “tell me up upfront”

    I caught one! Jeesh, I’ve been working on the course practice transcripts for a week, and every time I think I did a good job, Caitlin’s proofed copy proves that I’m still learning. But learning is exactly what I paid for the chance to do, so I’m putting my ego aside as best as I can. That said, finding that error made me happy.

  3. I found one as well.

    Reporters do not like having to follow up or with or “chase” proofreaders to find out whether…


    1. Great catch, Kari! Fixed! Eagle eyes in action…love it. 😀

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