What is ‘proofreading’, these days? The word means different things to different people, and client expectations have never been more varied. As an unconventional ‘celebration’ of 30 years in publishing, I have set out to answer this question.

logo for proofreading2020

This page explains the aims of the proofreading2020 project, and describes how it will work and the part that publishing professionals and their clients can play in helping to make it a successful and useful resource for the future. (Scroll down to join the mailing list.) The project began in April 2018 and will be completed later in 2020.

About the project

Proofreading2020 is a study of proofreading now and in the future. The project will involve:

  • a survey – for proofreaders and their clients, including in-house managers, in-house or freelance project managers, project management company staff, or similar roles
  • desk research
  • interviews with case studies.

The findings will then be distilled into a report and published as an eBook (or printed book).

The aim is to review current practices, describe how technology is influencing change, and draw conclusions/provide guidance about the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of emerging digital workflows/processes.


Traditionally, proofreaders have been the backstop for accuracy and correct presentation of information. But the world of words on ‘pages’ has changed beyond recognition in the past 50 years, and long-established processes of quality control are often either bypassed in the name of speed, or circumvented in the name of cost-savings.

In my relatively short (30 years) in the industry, the tools and techniques available to proofreaders have changed considerably. But I am anticipating further – possibly quite dramatic – changes in the future.

The proofreading2020 project will therefore review the role of the proofreader as we move towards the 2020s, through a comprehensive survey to assess current trends and techniques, and interviews with industry practitioners, to develop case studies.

The project title is inspired by the theme of moving forward into the next decade, but also the perception that proofreading is about reading – for which one aims to deploy 20/20 vision.

Why am I doing this? There are three main reasons:

  1. Freelancers who offer proofreading services come from a wide variety of backgrounds and approach the task in different ways. Equally, tools and techniques are developing all the time, but clients have different expectations. We need to know what works best, and what is the most efficient way of working.
  2. Clients and others who use the services of proofreaders have their own systems and preferred techniques. But could they be more efficient (and therefore more cost-effective)?
  3. I teach proofreading, and want to be able to give sound guidance to learners. But I’m a learner myself, and enjoy academic study. I don’t have the time (or funds) available to take a formal course such as an MA, so this is my way of incorporating ‘academic’ study into my 30th year in the publishing industry.

The outputs

The end product of the project will be a publication in book form (eBook or hard copy). The book will not be a ‘how to proofread’ guide for beginners; rather, it will present an overview of how proofreading practice has developed since the early days of printing, and where it is now heading.

Among other things, the book will include:

Part 1 – A brief history of proofreading

  • Proofreading in the 1980s and 90s – emergence of DTP
  • Proofreading in the noughties – growth in self-publishing
  • Proofreading now – key results from the survey

Part 2 – Proofreading2020 – case studies from publishers, newspapers/magazines, companies/businesses/organisations

Part 3 – Tools for today and tomorrow

  • Pens, pencils and proofreading marks
  • Resources (dictionaries, reference books, online resources, etc.)
  • Marking up PDFs
  • Working with MS Word files
  • Other media – websites, eBooks, social media (blogs, tweets, etc.), presentations, advertisements


The initial research stage is self-funded. I have contributed my time and a small financial contribution to set up the survey, web pages and initial marketing. The development of the publication will be crowdfunded.

Project timeline

The survey phase was completed in June 2018. The research/interview phase is ongoing, but has been delayed because of work/family issues. Here is the updated schedule.

Survey April–June 2018
Interview phase Ongoing
Crowdfunding/drafting/layout August 2020 – October 2020
Publish Winter 2020

Keep in touch

To find out more, please join the mailing list.

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