Discussion with Mel Eyons, proofreader (September 2016)
Can you briefly describe yourself and your role as a proofreader?
I’ve been a proofreader for 7 years. Before that I worked in several universities as a librarian for 12 years before I felt it was time to move on to something else. I had a friend who was a proofreader and it seemed like a great job for me as I have always liked writing and reading and been good at English. I also wanted something that would allow me to set my own hours and ways of working to fit in with other aspects of my life, so I took the plunge and became self-employed!
I did some proofreading training with Chapterhouse, and mostly work with students and academics, although I have done a couple of novels. A lot of my customers are from overseas or need some extra support because they have an issue such as dyslexia. I proofread anything from covering letters and CVs up to essays and theses. In law, I have mostly proofread journal articles or book chapters so far.
What I look at depends a lot on what people need. It might be a simple case of checking for spelling mistakes or people might need me to also check on grammar, sentence structure, clarity of meaning, whether the choice of words is right for the context, consistency in layout and headings, and so on.
It’s hard to say how long it will take to proofread something as a lot depends on how complicated the subject is (I might need to do some looking things up if it’s very technical!), as well as people’s language backgrounds and writing styles. It sometimes takes a while to get used to someone’s style so it’s quicker if I’ve proofread for them before. However, if I’m doing a dissertation or thesis I would allow up to 2 weeks.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of the role? What do you enjoy most enjoy in this role?
What I enjoy most is knowing that I’m (hopefully!) helping people get their ideas and work across as best they can, so that they can achieve their goals. I like being able to answer questions and help people to write even better.
Are there any specific challenges in proofreading legal writing?
There are a few challenges. There are often a lot of technical terms and some Latin phrases I have to become familiar with, as well as understanding how cases and laws are referred to in legal writing. It’s also important to be precise about meaning, so clarity is a must.
What are the most common challenges for law academics when they write and want to publish papers (in their writing)?
I think making sure papers are clear and precise, with the right terminology and being consistent in how things are referenced in how papers are formatted, especially heading styles and the fonts that are used.
What are the factors contributing to clear and accessible writing?
Making sure sentences aren’t too long and complicated is important so people don’t forget the beginning by the time they get to the end. Also, not using difficult or obscure words and phrases just for the sake of it is helpful for readers. Sometimes, one word is better than three!
Do you have any tips for law academics seeking to write clearly?
Really, just the things mentioned above.
Thank you very much Mel !
If you have stories, tips or suggestions about proofreading, please do come in touch with us !