Light-touch proofreading is a type of proofreading service that fixes essential, objective errors in a piece of work. If a customer has requested this service, launch our interactive microlearning module (with practice quizzes) below to learn how to light-touch proofread to a professional standard.
What Is "Light-Touch" Proofreading?
A request for light-touch proofreading will sometimes be made for native-level text that requires a final check before it is approved for publication or release.
“Light touch” means that the client wishes you to only make essential, objective changes.
We’ll now explore exactly what this means in practice.
Proofreading and editing can entail varying degrees of subjectivity. Everyone has stylistic preferences—you might have an irrational hatred for the serial comma, or title case, or the act of turning nouns into verbs (“I was tasked with a new project”).
However, your personal preferences have no place in light-touch proofreading. Any changes you make need to be because the text is wrong. This might be for the following reasons:
- The text contravenes the client’s brief, style guide, or chosen dictionary.
- The text contains a blatant typo or spelling or grammatical error.
- The text is factually incorrect.
- Something has been done inconsistently (for example, a couple of titles have been put into sentence case when all the others are in title case).
If a change is objective, you shouldn’t need to comment on it. That is, if something is either right or wrong, you don’t need to provide further commentary on what you have done.
There are a few instances where you would need to comment when proofreading in this way:
- If something is missing; for example, if there is a sentence fragment that you cannot complete.
- If what the author has written could be read in one of two or more ways, and it is not clear from the context which of these is the correct one.
- If there is an inconsistency that is not covered by a brief, style guide, or dictionary, and you have made an editorial decision as to which approach to opt for.
The above are not exclusive reasons, and the issue is not clear cut. Ideally, exactly how and when you should comment (especially if the client prefers limited or no proofreading) should be established with the client and included in their style guide.
If a client has asked for light-touch proofreading, they will not appreciate it if you do more than you have been asked to.
If the customer has asked for light-touch proofreading, they are largely happy with their text and simply wish to check that there are no overt errors (textual or factual). However tempting it is, maintain your objectivity and only intervene when strictly necessary.
This Really Isn't Right ...
So far, we’ve considered how you would successfully complete a light-touch proofreading order.
However, what if something is wrong with the text that would cause you to go beyond minimal intervention?
- The standard of English overall is not good enough for light-touch proofreading to be effective.
- There is a fallacy in the text that invalidates its entire argument or premise.
- The customer consistently does something that goes against a direct stipulation in their style guide.
In these situations, you would need to inform the client that there is an issue that requires further intervention. You should do so ASAP: as soon as you recognize that there is an issue and with enough time for the client to revise the text as necessary. The above issues are likely to impact the document extensively, so you need to proactively flag them for the client before you return the document.
You should not make the more extensive changes yourself unless you have agreed this with the client.
In summary, when undertaking a light-touch proofreading order:
- Only make objective and necessary changes.
- Limit your comments to only those instances where the customer’s input or attention is essential (or follow the client’s commenting preferences, which should be contained in the style guide).
- Don’t do more than you’ve been asked to do—but …
- Proactively flag a issue to the client if resolving the issue 1) is essential and 2) would go beyond light-touch proofreading.