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What Computing Skills Does a Proofreader Need?

In the old days, a proofreader could get by with nothing but a red pen and a set of arcane symbols. Now, though, technology has changed everything. So, do you need to be a technical whizz-kid to proofread in the modern world? Not quite, but you may need some computing skills. For instance, a proofreader may need to understand:

  • Microsoft Word and the “Track Changes” function
  • Other software packages for working in other formats (e.g., PDFs)
  • Some basic communication tools, such as email
  • Various finance and time-management tools

Let’s look at each of these computing skills in a bit more detail.

1. Microsoft Word

The key piece of technology every modern proofreader needs is Microsoft Word. It is the most popular word processor in the world, and most clients will send you work in the .DOCX format. On top of this, MS Word provides all the functions a proofreader needs, including:

  • Track Changes, which allows you to record edits electronically
  • The comment tool for providing feedback on documents
  • A “Compare” option that highlights the differences between two drafts of a document
  • An array of text formatting and page layout options

MS Word also boasts a range of extra features – the ability to change the default text direction, for instance – which can be useful when working on some documents.

In other words, the better you know Microsoft Word, the simpler proofreading becomes.

2. Other Software and Document Types

We mentioned above that most clients will send you Microsoft Word documents for proofreading, but this isn’t always the case. As such, you may need to use other software, too. The collaboration tools in Google Docs, for instance, make it popular with businesses.

Other examples of document types and the programs you may need to use include:

  • Presentations and slideshows (PowerPoint, Google Slides)
  • Spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets)
  • PDFs of typeset texts or marketing materials (Adobe Acrobat Reader)

If you want to work in these formats, you’ll need to learn the relevant software. Remember to check which program a client has used to create a document before accepting a job, too!

3. Email and Communications Technology

Working freelance, you may never meet most of your clients face to face. But you will still need to communicate with them. Usually, in the modern world, this starts with email.

Since email has been around for over half a century, we assume most people are comfortable using it now. However, some clients will prefer to talk via phone or video call.

In any case, a basic understanding of email, plus video and voice call tools, will be useful!

4. Finance and Time Management Software

Finally, while not technically involved in the proofreading itself, most freelancers also use some time management and accounting software packages, including:

  • Time tracking apps like Toggl to help you record the hours you work
  • To-do list tools like Trello and Wunderlist to help you track progress on and prioritize individual jobs and tasks, thereby helping you manage your workload
  • Accounting software like Wave or QuickBooks to help you manage your finances and handle tasks such as invoicing clients and working out your taxes

It is up to you which of these to use (if you prefer to keep your accounts with a pen and paper ledger, then we can only salute your old-school values). But getting to know the tools available to freelancers can make admin simpler, thus letting you focus on the proofreading.

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