The book

Cover of the Pocket Book of Proofreading

The Pocket Book of Proofreading is a powerful new guide to earning your own living as a freelance proofreader. You can 'read and make money' (around £24 an hour for proofreading and £26+ for copy-editing) after training. No previous experience is required, and you can work full or part time - from home.

The Pocket Book of Proofreading is also an essential book for those occasions where good English is needed – whether you’re writing a letter, an essay, composing a report, or perhaps even preparing a thesis.

It’s a complete professional guide, written by an experienced freelance editor, proofreader and former editor-in-chief of a group of Internet publishing companies.

With this book (see a larger image) you can learn how to become a freelance proofreader; find out how to work from home as a freelance, and how to acquire the necessary proofreading and editing skills, so you can become a successful proofreader. (See also the back cover. The rrp price of the book is £14.99.)

You can download Learn Freelancing's new Proofreading and Editing Course from this website – a series of exercises (instant file download), including free exercises, notes with all the answers/corrections explained and a Scorecard so you can accurately measure your proofreading skills.

NB: Learn about copy-editing too with comprehensive practical exercises.

Many people have been successful with The Pocket Book of Proofreading and the unique downloadable course – see the testimonials page.

Note: You'll find instances of double (") and single quotes (') on this website. For the sake of consistency, choose one or the other in your proofreading and copy-editing. See The Pocket Book of Proofreading for more details.

Thank you to all those buying the book.

New: The Pocket Book of Proofreading is available as a Kindle edition from


Grammar Tips: Here's a helpful look at grammar.


Some previous news from the Home page:

Split infinitives? It's now normal 'to brazenly break the rules'. Analysis of 11.5 milion words of British conversations finds that the use of split infinitives ('to boldly go' instead of 'boldly to go' or 'to go boldly' - putting an adverb between 'to' and the verb) has quadrupled over tne past 20 years. The research by Cambridge University Press and Lancaster University noted a growing tendency to start sentences with 'like' ;-) (The Times, 25 Sept 2017).

Thank you for latest review 37 from PS Ste...el. It's always so much appreciated to get feedback from readers of the proofreading book!


Learn freelance proofreading and copy-editing with Learn Freelancing


Being a competent proofreader or copy-editor means being able to spot small nuances.

Have you ever thought about the difference between marinate and marinade?

Here's a fun guide.

Note:  All Learn Freelancing courses (quite separate from the proofreading book) now include a free practical example explaining on-screen editing. It shows you how this editing skill is used with a job of just over 4 hours earning £93. A fair amount of work is now done onscreen using Word's 'Track Changes'. Funny thing is, proofreading symbols as such are not used! But once you get the hang of it, it's easy to edit onscreen, and quite satisfying too.

ALSO: If buying or downloading the Learn Freelancing Proofreading and Copy-editing Course from the 'How to Order' page, after reading The Pocket Book of Proofreading, please note that you will also receive a 'Welcome email' with two Word attachments with more details about how to get started. However, these are not downloaded automatically but follow from me usually within the hour or at most a few hours.


Thanks to Amy for this just received: she is now working through the Learn Freelancing Proofreading & Copy-editing Course (download version)

'I have purchased your brilliant Pocket Book of Proofreading in both Kindle and physical copy, and to expand my collection of preparatory/practice exercises I am hoping to purchase your downloadable course with the sample essays.'


Ever get stuck pronouncing words? 'Emma Saying' has covered most. For example, in Britain, should we say 'skedule' or 'schedule'?

Well, 'skedule' is American English, and 'schedule' (shed-ule) is how you should say it here - but lots of people get it wrong.

How we live now (NOT!): Displaying your books backwards for 'neutral' effect and avoid colour clashes! 

HELP with words. Is it scone to rhyme with con or scone to rhyme with cone?

Other problem pronunciations:


Tzatziki   tsat-si-key              Bouillabaisse  boo-yah-behss

Ceviche   sh-bee-tche            Edamame       ed-a-mar-mei

Acai         ah-sigh-ee              Nicoise            ni-swaz

Quinoa    keen-wah                Prosciutto      pro-shoot-tow

Gnocchi   nyohk-kee               Manchego      man-chay-go

Anise      anis                         Maraschino     ma-ra-skeeno

Crudites  krew-dee-tay          Guacamole     gwah-kah-moh-leh


Image result for scone image

Of course they don't rhyme with stones!


Some helpful answers re recent questions...


Q: Do you still get 'typescripts' to work by mail on or is just about everything done onscreen with track changes?

A: It depends on whether it's a copy-edit or proofread. All copy-edits come to me in Word and I do the edits onscreen with track changes. Proofreads vary - quite a few still come in the post as hard copies, but I also get PDFs too (no Word files for proofreads, at least from publishers). Non-publishers tend to send me PDFs, sometimes Word files - but not hard copy.


   Q: Do you ever have to correct PDFs or is it still Word mainly?

A: As above - always seems to be Word if it's a copy-edit, but PDFs for proofreads.


Q: If you had to correct or add changes to a PDF are there any free versions or do you still need a 'professional' one?

A: I use the free one - haven't been able to afford the professional version and not sure if I need it, but clients seem happy with what I'm able to do using the free version so I've not seen the point of paying for it. I generally use comments tools to add instructions, or annotation tools to show insertions / deletions etc. It's a bit clunky I think but seems to do the job. I use the free version of Adobe Reader but I think there are others too. (Thanks to Liz of Nature Edit for these replies.)

NEW: A query: 'What's the best software to use if you have graduated from working with paper proofs to working onscreen?' Thanks to Liz for the answer.


I usually use Word for copy-editing and Acrobat for proofreading, though I also sometimes proofread in Word - generally only for non-publisher clients though. To be honest though, most publishers still send me paper proofs!

But again, depends on what this person is trying to do and who the clients are - presumably it would depend on what the client sends and on what they want (e.g. if they send a PDF, I'd proofread it in Acrobat or another PDF reader)...


 Thanks also to US readers, and further afield in Canada and Europe, for your interest in The Pocket Book of Proofreading.


Copy-editors are not supposed to input their own opinions but this is what I did once when asked to copy-edit a book based on the Russian 'liberation' of Czechoslovakia [now the Czech Republic], co-written by two Russian generals. That is to say, in a nutshell, that Russian tanks went into Prague to 'liberate' the country from the control of traitor Alexander Dubcek, the reformist leader who initiated the reforms of the 'Prague Spring'. I could not allow this to go unchallenged, so re-wrote much of the book, having found out in reference libraries what really happened, as in the West we still have free a press and free access to facts. I sent in my invoice, which from memory was about £450.

Shortly after the book was published, I was called in to the commissioning editor's office to explain my actions. The two generals were furious (as in purple with rage), alleging Western propaganda had found its way into the book. They demanded all copies be destroyed, and asked for a new copy-editor! I kept my freelance role with the publishers, however. Subsequent historical facts as they emerged proved me right, and the generals disappeared from history, along with the Berlin Wall.

PS: If you sent in an invoice to the Kremlin, would you get paid?

What makes a bestseller? I've always been interested in what sells to readers. Amazon has a very useful tool that tells you, by the hour, of a book's sales ranking. If you are listed at 14,000 in Books, it means that 13,999 books sell more than yours. I happened to see that former FBI sacked chief James Comey is to publish a new book on the 19th April. It has already hit no. 1! To be published by Macmillan, 304pp., on April 19th, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.

WHAT DOES 'EASTER' REALLY MEAN? Eggs, rabbits, the 'Paschal lamb'?

Image result for easter images

Happy Easter 2018: The etymology is as follows: Old English eastre; of Germanic origin and related to German Ostern and east; perhaps from Eastre, the name of a goddess associated with spring and fertility; from austron, 'dawn', perhaps originally sunrise, her feast being celebrated at the spring equinox. (aust-, 'east, towards the sunrise', root aus-, 'to shine', especially of the dawn)




Report from The Times (Monday 25 July): 'Latin abbreviations are to be barred from government websites because they may confuse people whose first language is not English.' Eventually, all Latin abbreviations will be edited out. Facing the purge are e.g., exempli gratia (for example), i.e. (id est, that is) and etc, an abbreviation of et cetera (and other things). On such sites, e.g. will be replaced by words such as 'like', 'such as' or 'including'.

Sign seen on rear van window:

*Block Paving
*Building Work

One drive, two drives; one patio, two patios - once again, the fatal attraction to sticking apostrophes in the wrong place!


(Not an April Fools!)

Thought  for the day: Every editor, copy-editor or proofreader has to scan words carefully, sometimes to ensure material is not libellous, and always has to be sure the words used make good sense. One small example, passing Li's Chinese takeaway today. A large sign read, 'NO ADDED MSG'. This has a quiet irony, as it might mean no added MSG - apart from the MSG already in it! Is it better to say, 'NO MSG ADDED'?

The Editor's Opinion    13 Apr 2021


Proofreading goes woke! Well not quite and not yet.  Some universities have announced a plan to reduce spelling standards for certain groups, often minority ethnic, as it is considered elitist to mark down bad spelling. You see, good English is a symbol or tool of cultural oppression. Hull University seems to think that good English usage is best described as: 'homogeneous north European, white, male, elitist'. [gasp]

The original aim was to narrow the gap in achievement between white and ethnic minority students. 'Any differentiation, such as between correct and incorrect statements, can be claimed [in the attempt by social justice warriors to replace post-modern objective truth with subjective opinion] as proof of discrimination or bigotry by an oppressor class.' 

In the US, Rutgers University's English department (Melanie Phillips in The Times) claims that 'correctly spoken and written English is racist.' There is an internship offered whose purpose is 'Decolonising the Writing Centre', so as to make writing 'more linguistically diverse' - and as Melanie Phillips writes, 'in other words, unintelligible.' There are big problems in the teaching of maths too, for reasons not gone into here.

Consider this paragraph from the same article: 'In George Orwell's 1984 Winston Smith is tortured for insisting that two plus two equals four. Yet on Twitter Laurie Rubel, a professor of maths education at Brooklyn College, wrote that the 2+2=4 equation "reeks of white supremacist patriarchy".'

Luckily, there's no excuse for bad English in proofreading, copy-editing, and in English generally. So there!



Have you ever wondered what happened to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi? 

It looks like there will be some major news this Tuesday 23rd October.

Image result for dr zhivago

On this day in 1958, October 23rd: Boris Pasternak, author of Dr Zhivago, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. He declined to accept it because of pressure from the Russian authorities. A case of Russian (daylight) robbery.


Snowflake generation

Strange! The subject of capitalisation is quite important for copy-editors and proofreaders -- a matter of getting it right. Seen in The Times: 'Avoid using capital letters in essay briefs, lecturers told.'

'Capitalised words should not be used when setting assignments because it can worry students, university lecturers have been told...any lack of clarity can generate anxiety and even discourage students from attempting the assessment at all.' Capitalising a word could emphasise a task's 'difficulty or high-stakes nature'.

And in the age of oversensitivity: Library poster advertising a production of 'Snow White and Her Little Friends'.


News: A Learn Freelancing student takes on a proofreading job -

and does a better job than two experienced editors!

Here are some examples that 'Sarah M' found in a 51k word typescript supposedly

passed as good to go to print!

   to sure  =  to be sure

I believe it is much with the same with   =  I believe it is much the same with

witchdoctors - should be two words  = witch doctors

can live for over 100 years or more = can live for 100 years or more

if indeed there any such leviathans = if indeed there are any such leviathans

                                 C6H12O→ 2 C2H5OH + 2 CO  =    C6H12O→ 2 C2H5OH + 2 CO2  

                                                                                (note final subscript 2 missing!)

though her arms, face and arms had browned = though her face and arms had browned

and if he kept secret a secret grudge = and if he kept a secret grudge

if did not matter = it did not matter

certainly between 50 and 59°C =  certainly between 50 and 59°F  

(this was about the best temperature for keeping wine and 59°C it is certainly not!)

As well as these 'howlers', Sarah found many missed punctuation errors, full stops, brackets, and omitted quote marks.

Thank you Sarah, a superb effort! 


$100,000 raised in one day. Best wishes to this Hong Kong bookseller.

One happy bookseller


A classic proofreading mistake in a Draft Green Belt Review.

To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns --

'The water meadows in the food plain of the River Stour will remain open.'

Note: have heard of flood plains before but never a 'food plain'.