Proofreading Practice: Exercises with model answers and commentary
by Margaret Aherne (Improving Books, 2011): 226pp, £25, ISBN 978 0 9570890 0 6.
Reviewed by Ruth Ekblom
Note: the second edition (January 2017) is now available and the author is giving SfEP members a special discount. More information on discounts available to SfEP members.
I have appreciated the thought and expertise that has gone into this excellent resource as I have worked my way through it. While Margaret compiled the exercises with the novice proofreader in mind, it is as useful to the returning or rusty proofreader as it is to the new.
The book comes in loose-leaf format in an A4 ring binder to make it is easy to remove exercise sheets for copying.* Margaret suggests doing this, keeping the original sheets clean for reference, and working on the copies. The user therefore gets as many opportunities as they need to brush up their skills.
Having completed an exercise, the user is able to turn to the model answer pages at the back of the book, and find out just how well they have done – or not done. Margaret's encouraging commentary after the answer sheet helps to clarify issues, highlights common mistakes people make and provides useful suggestions for avoiding these errors in actual work. It is clear that Margaret wants the user to improve their skill.
* For the second edition (published in 2017), the format was changed to downloadable PDFs.
The exercises are taken from a variety of sources. Apart from giving the student no room for getting bored with the subject, the range illustrates the possibilities for future work for a proofreader. While traditional books feature, there is also an excerpt from a motorcycle maintenance manual as well as drug information sheets and knitting patterns, just for starters.
The focus for each unit is different. The five exercises in a unit get progressively more complex and detailed. The final part in each unit is a zero tolerance exercise, giving the student the challenge of finding every error. Unit A covers narrative, Unit B deals with layout and formatting, Unit C with complexity and Unit D addresses the later stages a proofreader might encounter. A coffee break section after Unit D has a series of short but challenging exercises. I found proofreading gibberish certainly got me checking the text letter by letter.
Good value for money
Was this book useful? Yes, without a doubt. I believe it would be good addition to the recommended resources of any proofreading course, for both beginners and improvers. It is good value for money, and has the benefit of being ultimately reusable, if you scan or photocopy the exercises first. I am sure it would help others as much as it has helped and challenged me.