Proofreading is something of a neurotic habit. Example? I kept having to import text from Word for this website rather than typing anything directly, since the font settings don't include proper apostrophes. (Look at that ‘don’t’ – which I typed in just now – and compare it with this second one.) Proofreaders also notice things like the length of dashes, and whether a beta symbol (β) is actually an Eszett (ß).
Most editors are keen to stress the difference between copyediting and proofreading – probably because in the publishing industry, these are separate processes involving very different levels of attention. In the editor’s ideal world, we copyedit the text to refine the content and then, much later on, proof it as a final QC check before it goes to print. In the time-constrained real world, however, this is often not possible.
We’re often thanked for ‘proofreading’ something when we’ve done a complex edit, which is a bit like thanking the plumber for fixing a drippy tap when actually they’ve just installed your central heating system. But who cares? I don’t insist on anyone knowing the difference, and always do both.
That’s my job: to improve the quality of written materials in any way I can – helping you to express yourself more clearly and precisely, and presenting the information as neatly as possible.