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The Requirements to Be a Proofreader for a Publisher

Individuals who love the written word and have a strong grasp of the English language can enjoy rewarding careers as proofreaders. Though proofreaders work in a range of fields, many find work with publishing houses that produce books. In these positions, proofreaders often serve as the last set of eyes before a book goes to print, making sure the language is clear and free of typos. If a proofreading career appeals to you, make sure you meet basic requirements for this position.


Proofreaders need to have a postsecondary degree. Some earn associate degrees at two-year community colleges, while others earn bachelor's or even master's degrees at four-year colleges and universities. No matter the degree path you choose, select a major that builds your writing skills. Publishers often prefer proofreaders with degrees in journalism or English. Choose courses that challenge your writing and editing skills. Journalism programs can expose students to a range of different writing styles, and some programs even offer specializations in editing.

Writing Skills

An effective proofreader is also a strong writer, so many publishers seek out proofreaders who have demonstrated writing skills. Often, applicants will have to submit writing samples when they apply so that the publisher can evaluate their grasp of the English language. Obvious grammatical errors in the proofreader's writing might indicate that he will not catch these errors in another person's writing. Professional or freelance experience as a writer can also boost an applicant's chances of landing a publishing proofreader position.

Editing Skills

Not all strong writers are effective editors, so publishers want to hire individuals who can demonstrate their editing skills. Proofreaders can expect to take a proofreading test before landing that job offer. Often, this test will simply be a writing sample from one of the publisher's books. The proofreader will need to mark it up, indicating typos and grammatical errors. Experience as a proofreader or copy editor is useful, but publishers will want to see the applicant's proofreading work firsthand.

Eye for Detail

An eye for detail is key in any proofreading position. Publishers rely on the proofreader to produce clean copy before a book goes to print. Therefore, the proofreader should be focused enough to catch even the smallest errors, like a missing period at the end of a sentence or a misspelled word. Proofreaders don't look at the big picture; they look at a document line by line to ensure it meets the publisher's standards as well as rules of basic grammar.


Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.