Proofreading 1: Introduction

Who is this course suitable for?

This course is suitable for beginners contemplating a career as a proofreader and for those who need to proofread as part of their job but have had little formal training.

Course description

'Proofreading' can mean different things in different contexts. This course looks at the role of a proofreader, what kinds of errors they are looking for and how much they should change. It introduces three major ways of working: on PDFs, on paper using BSI marks and using Word.

This course is available as an online self-assessed course (see below).

As part of the online course, you will have the support of a tutor, who is available for 1 hour of support. Further hours can be purchased at £35 per hour.

What you should know after the course

This course teaches the very basics of proofreading; on its own it does not provide the thorough grounding needed to work as a professional proofreader. Apart from introducing the basics of proofreading, the course is designed as a taster to answer the question ‘Is proofreading for me?' You will need further training and practice to become a competent proofreader. Once you have completed the course, you should be familiar with the following aspects of the profession:

  • the types of error a proofreader is expected to spot and correct
  • how to mark those errors on paper and onscreen using BSI symbols, PDF markup tools and Word's Track Changes
  • some of the common editorial conventions in the UK and how to apply them
  • an understanding of how to exercise judgement in how much to change
  • the difference between proofreading and proof-editing
  • the importance of obtaining sufficient guidance from the client about the work they expect you to do
  • where proofreading fits into a variety of publishing processes.

At the end of this course, you will not have sufficient training to start work. We suggest that you grow your skills with Proofreading 2: Headway.

Requirements for taking this course

  • Fluency in English
  • Good general knowledge of English grammar
  • Wide general knowledge
  • Familiarity with the functions of word processing programs; this course assumes use of MS Word (Office 365)
  • Familiarity with basic markup tools for PDFs (this course assumes knowledge of Adobe Acrobat Reader DC)

While this course provides helpful links to information on these requirements, it does not teach the rules of grammar or spelling, nor does it cover how to use the software.

It is now very clear to me that there is a very large and precise skill set required to be a proofreader and it is not simply a matter of being a relatively literate person. This course has given me a good insight into the complexity.


It was pitched at the right level, scary enough to make you think, but also providing the information and exercises to start to give you confidence.


Availability, prices and upgrade points

Price (members)  
Price (non-members)  
CIEP upgrade points 3
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Other price discounts are available. See the fees page.

Please be aware that the CIEP has now moved all its online courses to a new learning platform. Courses begun on the old platform will only be available until 31 December 2023, so please make sure that you complete them before the cut-off date. Extensions cannot be transferred to the new platform.

Online course structure

Time allowed for access: 6 months CIEP upgrade points: 3
Approximate study time needed to complete the course: 10 hours

This is a self-assessed course. You will be assigned a tutor who will be available for up to 1 hour of support (usually by email) but the tutor does not mark any of your work.

When you have finished the course you can download and print a certificate that states that you have completed the course.

The online course follows the syllabus as described in the screen below.

Unit 1 introduces the types of errors a proofreader needs to look out for and how to get into the right frame of mind for spotting them.

Unit 2 shows how proofreading can mean different things in different contexts and the importance of obtaining clear instructions from your clients.

Unit 3 introduces the 2005 BSI symbols and how they are used to mark up proofs.

Unit 4 explains how to use PDF markup tools effectively to proofread on screen.

Unit 5 explores the concept of proof-editing and how this differs from straightforward proofreading.

Unit 6 summarises the role of a proofreader and looks at strategies for spotting and marking errors efficiently and accurately.

Introduction to proofreading

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