Proofreading hard copy publications

A manuscript intended to be self-published in hardcopy needs to be edited, designed, proofread, sent to the printer, then the final ‘proof’ checked or proofread, before the print run commences.

The printer usually then sends the publications coordinator * a hardcopy  ‘proof’ which needs to be carefully checked or proofread by the publications coordinator and/or proofreader prior to approving the print run.

* I’ll be writing more about the publications coordinator’s role in a future article.

Prior to the proofreading stage


For information about the editing process prior to graphic design or proofreading, go to: The three stages of editing.


Most hard copy publications are designed using a graphic design program (for example, Adobe InDesign). Some text-based hard copy publications are designed in Word or another word processing program. For information about the programs used for writing, editing and designing publications, go to: File formats.

If you would like to know more about the graphic design stage, go to: Creating a book using Adobe InDesign.

For the purposes of this article, I’ll assume your manuscript has been designed using InDesign.

The proofreading stage

Now that your manuscript has been designed, it needs to be proofread.

Proofreading the designed document

The manuscript was copy edited prior to being designed, so there should be very few errors in the InDesign document apart from errors that have been introduced during the graphic design stage.

The proofreader needs to:

  • correct any errors in the document that have been previously missed by the copy editor or that have been created by conversion to the design software
  • proofread the designed version of the manuscript against the copy edited draft to ensure no text has been ‘dropped out’ during the design process; for example, compare all lists, captions, photograph placement and other items with the earlier draft
  • ensure the formatting is perfect in terms of page numbering and positioning, title and subtitle positioning; there should be no ‘orphans or widows’ as lines or words
  • pay particular attention to any sections that have been added at a late stage of the editing or design process and may not have been edited as thoroughly as other parts; for example, the half-page information, blurb, preface or table of contents page
  • ensure the deadline for submission to the printer is met.

There are a few ways in which the InDesign document can be proofread:

  • electronically within the InDesign program, or
  • marking up corrections electronically in the PDF document; in which case the proofreader’s corrections need to be subsequently transferred into the electronic InDesign document, or
  • Handwriting corrections onto the hard copy printout of the InDesign or PDF draft; in which case the proofreader’s corrections need to be afterwards transferred (by the  graphic designer) into the electronic InDesign document.

The proofread InDesign document is then saved as a PDF document and  submitted to the printer.

Proofreading the printer’s hard copy ‘proof’

Most printers submit a hard copy ‘proof’ to the publications coordinator to give them an opportunity to make any final corrections, prior to the print run. Once the publications coordinator has confirmed there are no errors, the ‘proof’ is signed off and the print run commences. For more information go to: Proofreading the printer’s final ‘proof’.

For other articles about editors and editing, proofreaders and proofreading, go to:  Editing and proofreading

Image: Sally-Anne Watson Kane and hardcopy books (in the library).

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