Is proofreading ability innate or can it be learned?

An excellent proofreader must have:

  • natural talent in proofreading, including an eye for detail
  • training that has given them an excellent knowledge of sentence structure, spelling, punctuation and grammar, and training in proofreading (including on-the-job)
  • experience in professional proofreading.

Natural talent


Editors and proofreaders are usually drawn to the editing profession by the fact that they love correcting others’ work, and/or have a natural talent for noticing small errors in their own, or others’ work.

I would even go so far as to say that without a natural eye for detail, a proofreader would not get very far in their training.

Having this natural talent does not necessarily make you a good proofreader, but not having this talent means you cannot become a good proofreader.



Even editors and proofreaders with loads of natural talent will not become good at proofreading unless they :

  • have been trained in sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and spelling, and
  • have been given formal or informal training in proofreading (including on-the-job training), and so learned about the finer points of proofreading.

Experience in professional proofreading


Even a person with tertiary qualifications in editing and proofreading will become better at their job when they gain some experience in proofreading – and the more experience, the better.

Experience in professional proofreading gives you:

  • knowledge about the different proofreading requirements of different types of texts (e.g. non-fiction – academic, theses, reports, histories, memoirs; fiction – novels, anthologies, poetry),
  • confidence in proofreading and ensuring consistency across publications or suites of publications (e.g. policies, reports, book series),
  • efficiency when proofreading texts, i.e. an ability to quickly make all the corrections needed to ensure the text is clear, and
  • the sort of knowledge you can only gain by experience; e.g. you cannot know what you do not know, until you discover that you don’t know it.

Note: some editing courses offer on-the-job training as part of the course, enabling you to get first-hand experience in editing and proofreading publications by the time you graduate.

Proofread by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading

Image: courtesy of Pixabay – Creative Commons licence.


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