How did you know you wanted to be a proofreader? A client asked me recently.
My initial response was: I didn’t.
The first job I had after graduating from university was with Goldman Sachs in London back in the late 80s. Computers were still relatively new and WordPerfect was the word processing package of choice. I worked in the exciting and fast-paced world of Mergers & Acquisitions within the Corporate Finance department.
Part of my role was to ensure there were no errors in the documentation being put together for pitch documents, IPOs, mergers and acquisitions. This meant checking for typos, ensuring headers and footers were correct, ensuring page numbering was consistent, tables, graphs and illustrations were in the right place and correctly identified, and the table of contents was correct. Time was always short and the pressure ever-present to ensure the documents were perfect.
My second job was in public relations. My boss owned the company and she was as old school as they came; set in her ways and demanding as hell (it turns out she was the Miranda Priestly* of home interiors PR). She’d only ever used a typewriter and had processes in place for every aspect of the business. Initially I found this attention to the most minute detail frustrating and tedious, but over time I realised how important it was to adhere to a particular style and format for the work we turned out – whether it was a press release or copy for a brochure, all work adhered to our in-house style.
Those skills were drilled into me right from the start.
Fast-forward 30 years. I am living on a tiny island in the Caribbean, where the quality of life is perfect for us at this stage of our lives. I find myself inspired to write. I study the craft of writing, join an on-line writing community, learn a lot and write four novels. I love the creative process, but I know I won’t make a lot of money writing fiction, I’m not the next JK Rowling.
My husband has an aerial video and photography business, shooting high-end real estate in the Caribbean – he’s the creative talent, I’m his assistant. Needing to supplement our income, I cast around for something I can do on a freelance basis from home. Thanks to the internet, I’m not restricted by geographical location.
My husband asks: What do you enjoy doing?
I love writing fiction, but it doesn’t pay the bills.
In the writing world, what are you good at, specifically?
Helping authors with their manuscripts, specifically finding and fixing errors, improving the flow of text, picking up on inconsistencies.
Ah, so giving text the final polish?
I took an accredited online course in copy editing and proofreading to ensure my skills were up to date, joined the Society for Editors & Proofreaders and listed myself on findaproofreader.com.
It turns out Miranda Priestly trained me well…
Shuna Meade, Final Polish Editorial Services
*The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger