Many forms of proofreading require more than just good English skills: technical proofreading is one of these.
All English language proofreaders need good English skills. These are good grammar, good spelling and good vocabulary skills.
But there are several types of proofreading where extra knowledge is needed. These types of proofreading would include:
All of these types of proofreading require the proofreader to be knowledgeable about the topic area. They need to know and understand the sometimes very specialized terminology; also, when a ‘common’ English word has an alternative specialized meaning used only within that field.
The most specialized form is proofreading technical documents.
In this type of proofreading you need to be able to fully understand the subject matter. You need to become an expert in the topic so that you can find any mistakes and inconsistencies in the subject matter.
You need to be able to check that each table and figure matches the description in the text. That the text also matches the figures and tables, as technical documents often have multiple authors; so, the figures and text might no longer match, once it’s finally reached the proofreading stage.
A technical document proofreader is more than just someone to make sure the words are spelt correctly and commas are in the correct places. They need to proofread the contents as well as the language used.
A technical document will often be used by people in challenging situations or by people who need the language to be simple and easy to understand.
A technical document needs to use the same terminology throughout. This means that each time an item or situation is described the language needs to be kept the same (but still include correct grammar and usage for the situation) so there can’t be any confusion over what’s needed.
A technical proofreader needs to check all the facts and figures in a document. They need to make sure that all the formulae are written correctly and that any numbers reach the stated totals.
Proofreading technical documents is a very specialized field and only certain proofreaders have the skills needed. These proofreaders need to be engineers and scientists as much as English language masters.
The language used in a well written technical document will be simple and clear. As far as the language goes a proofreader will more than likely be simplifying it and ensuring consistency. They really earn their money when it comes to proofreading the technical parts. This is where their skill and expertise really comes to the fore. They need to check every last little insignificant detail, because it probably isn’t insignificant and will cause major problems if it isn’t corrected.
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