You don’t need many tools to get started as a proofreader! (And you probably have some of these already!)
Besides needing internet to communicate with clients and receive/send back jobs, it’s also helpful when you’re working on a proofreading job. A lot of your proofreading resources to look up grammar rules, spellings, word definitions, etc. are online, and it will make your proofing lot easier if your computer is connected to the internet while you’re working. That’s why I recommend having an internet connection at your home so you’re never limited when you’re marketing, managing your business, or proofreading.
You will need a desktop, laptop, iPad, or tablet to proofread on. Most of my students prefer their laptop because they’re already used to using it, the full-sized keyboard is convenient to type on, and it’s easy to carry a laptop around. I use both my laptop and my iPad when I proofread transcripts depending on my mood. If I’m on the go a lot, my iPad is my favorite because it’s super compact and I can put it in my purse and easily pull it out whenever I’m sitting in the car or waiting somewhere.
Two devices you cannot proofread on are your Kindle and phone. A Kindle does not have the ability to run the proofreading programs you need. Your phone screen is far too small to do the detailed work you need to with proofreading, not to mention the most common proofreading programs are either not available on your phone or do not have all the functionality that’s available on an iPad or laptop.
You can proofread on either a PC or a Mac. I’m a Mac person all the way, so I love using my MacBook and iPad, but there are excellent proofreading programs that work on each.
Whatever you decide to proofread on, you should have it regularly and easily available. Just like internet, you don’t want to be limited to working only when you can drive somewhere or convince someone else to share with you.
Common proofreading programs
Speaking of proofreading programs, you also need the most common programs clients will ask you to work in. That way when a client reaches out and asks you to proof a Word file or a PDF file, you’re ready to go and don’t have to scramble to purchase new software and learn it.
Microsoft Word is one of the most common proofreading tools. I recommend getting Microsoft 365 Personal. It’s a yearly subscription that gives you access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint – all programs you can proofread inside for clients.
Google Workspace is another common proofreading tool. Word used to be the most popular place to proofread in, but Google is quickly taking over! It has a lot of the same features as Microsoft 365 with Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more. (It’s free!)
For PDF proofreading, Adobe has the most robust PDF editor for general proofreading. There are two versions of Adobe PDF editors – Acrobat Standard and Acrobat Pro. Standard only works on a Windows computer, so if you have a Mac, you have to go with Pro. Programs like iAnnotate and Kami let you make annotations (but no changes) to a PDF. Those types of programs are what transcript proofreaders use.
I teach you how to use these proofreading programs inside my courses so you don’t have to worry about figuring them out on your own!
Style guides/Reference manuals
Last but definitely not least, every proofreader should have the style guide their client uses. That way you can reference it while you’re proofreading and make sure you’re following it when making corrections. A style guide is a reference manual that compiles all the grammar rules and guidelines specific to the field your client writes in.
There are several different style guides depending on the type of general proofreading you’re doing – Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Associate (MLA), etc. They each have their own rules for punctuation, capitalization, syntax, references, etc. When you’re asking yourself questions about where to put a comma and when to leave out a semicolon, the style guide is your friend. As a transcript proofreader, you’ll use reference manuals like Margie’s Bad Grammar/Good Punctuation and Morson’s English Guide for Court Reporters.
As proofreaders, we should always have the most up-to-date reference manuals. For example, CMOS is in its 17th edition now. Each edition has come out with updated rules, and it’s important as proofreaders that we’re always proofreading by the most current guidelines so we’re not giving our clients outdated information. They pay us to be on top of grammar rules! And one way we do that is by staying current with style guides.
If you don’t have these proofreading tools yet or aren’t sure how to best use them, no worries! I have all the training you need to learn and master your proofreading tools as either a general or a transcript proofreader.