Using a professional proofreading service is becoming more and more common for scientists and academics, especially ESL academics. Science is fiercely competitive, and perfect English can mean the difference between an article or proposal being accepted and rejected. We discuss the five most frequently asked questions about professional proofreading services so you can decide whether they are right for you.

1.  Why do I need a professional proofreader?

As a highly trained expert and successful scientist, you may wonder what the benefit of professional proofreading services could be. It is common for researchers to believe that they can proofread their own writing and spot their own mistakes. This is a misconception.

Research has shown that individuals are likely to overlook their own spelling and grammar mistakes. This is because the brain sees what it thinks has been written rather than what is actually on the page. A professional proofreader won’t face this obstacle. They can see every single error and know how to correct them.

For both native and non-native English speakers, professional proofreading ensures that your final product is perfectly written and perfectly presented.

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2. What does professional proofreading involve?

Proofreading is the final stage in the writing process. The proofreader will check and correct all spelling, grammar and syntax throughout the document. They will correct English language errors, remove colloquialisms and informal language and ensure that every sentence is crystal clear.

In addition to this, they also check that usage is consistent throughout the document, check that references are present and formatted correctly, check cross references, tables and figures, and standardise the presentation.

This means that the final product is ready for publication and looks perfectly professional.

3. How will I know what changes have been made?

Most professional proofreading is carried out in word processors. Every change is recorded through the Track Changes function. When you receive the proofread document, you can individually review and accept every single edit.

Sometimes professional proofreaders will also use the Comments function to add explanations, ask questions or make suggestions.

Professional proofreading services can also proofread documents in PDF and LaTex formats. In PDF, the Comments function is used to show where changes need to be made, and these are then made by the author. In LaTex, a tracked changes function is used.

In all cases, you will be able to clearly see and approve every change that is suggested.

4. How long does professional proofreading take?

The time it takes to proofread professionally depends on the length and nature of the document. Proofreading a document thoroughly and well should not be done quickly, and a professional proofreader will go through the document several times.

However, professional proofreaders can work flexibly and to deadlines, and so the duration should be discussed with the proofreader so that your needs are met and the document is completed to the highest quality.

5. What does a professional proofreader need to know?

When you have decided to engage a professional proofreading service, you need to first discuss with them your needs, expectations and deadlines.

It is important that you tell your proofreader who the audience for the document is. For example, if you are submitting an article to a specific journal you should provide the proofreader with the author guidelines so they can ensure that they are adhered to.

You should also state exactly what you require from a professional proofreader. If you want them to pay particular attention to the references, or ignore the tables, or have special requirements, you should make sure to let them know.