This is our final blog on proofreading for non-professionals. In it, we point the way to some other resources on proofreading which you might find helpful.
The resources are not exclusively on proofreading, since there is overlap with other topics, such as writing skills and style, editing, grammar, punctuation and spelling. The resources listed here cover further reading, websites and training.
A good book on the subject of proofreading — although it is aimed at professionals or people intending to become professional proofreaders — is Copyediting and Proofreading For Dummies by Suzanne Gilad (Wiley Publishing Inc, 2007). It’s very comprehensive on the subject of proofreading itself, explains the key differences between copy-editing and proofreading, and has useful and fairly up to date guidance on electronic proofreading (ie on-screen proofing). Slight drawbacks are the US orientation (for non-US readers, of course) and the omission of guidance on proofreading material that is destined for online publication as opposed to print.
The British Standards Institution (BSI) sets and publishes the standards for proof correction marks. Search on the BSI website for the standard on ‘Copy preparation and proof correction’. A handy laminated fold-out booklet, containing all proof correction marks, is available for a small fee. www.bsi-global.com
The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is the main UK professional organisation for editors and proofreaders. It has a directory of members (searchable by specific areas of expertise) which is very useful if you’re trying to find a professional proofreader, offers its own proofreading standards and qualifications, and provides courses on proofreading from beginner level upwards. www.sfep.org.uk
The Publishing Training Centre is the UK publishing industry’s main provider of training. It has several courses on proofreading, mainly for professionals but also at an introductory level, including an excellent distance learning course. www.train4publishing.co.uk
Writing skills and style
The Plain English Campaign’s mission is to encourage the use of clear and simple language in all written forms. The campaign’s website has free downloadable guides on such topics as using plain English, writing for websites and finding alternative words. www.plainenglish.co.uk
There are countless books on good writing style, effective writing and clear writing — and many of them are directed at specific users in fields such as business, education, science, and so on. There are far too many to try to list in this brief blog. Your best bet is to search online — on the Amazon website, for example — using such terms as ‘effective writing’, ‘persuasive writing’, ‘clear writing’, or whatever it is you’re interested in. Beware of buying books that are aimed at a particular geographical market, since the use of English does vary significantly if you compare US and UK usage, for example.
If you’re looking for an authoritative work on copy-editing, designed for professionals in the book and journal publishing industry, the bible is Judith Butcher’s Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-editors and Proofreaders 4th edition, revised and updated with Caroline Drake and Maureen Leach (Cambridge University Press, 2006). It has a good chapter on proofreading too.
Another key reference work for professionals is the New Oxford Style Manual 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2011). It’s in two parts: the first is a guide to style designed for professional writers and editors; the second is an A-Z reference guide with advice on spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, and so on. If you want to develop your own house style guide (see House styles guides), this would be an invaluable reference work.
Grammar, punctuation and spelling
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary 12th edition (Oxford University Press, 2011) would be most people’s choice for an authoritative dictionary, but there are many other good ones out there. Great for spelling, obviously, but if you’re not sure whether words should be hyphenated, or whether they normally need an initial capital, this can’t be beat. Appendix 10 ‘Guide to Good English’ is an excellent and very concise introduction to grammar.
A very thorough reference on all points grammatical can be found in John Seely’s Oxford A–Z of Grammar and Punctuation revised 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2013).
You’ve probably heard of Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss (Profile Books, 2003). It’s a humorous rant with mostly sound advice. And finally, a book that’s been around for a while, but is still full of timeless good advice and gentle humour, is G V Carey’s Mind the Stop: A Brief Guide to Punctuation with a Note on Proof-Correction (Penguin, 1971, but originally published in 1958). A personal favourite.
If you have any queries about any of the above suggestions, or are looking for something more specific, don’t hesitate to email me.