A lot of things may spring to mind when you think of a proofreader. Possibly someone with a stern, Miss. Trunchbull-type face who will tell you where you’re going wrong with a clap of her chalk dusters and a snap of the cane. Or perhaps you imagine a more scholarly type, hunched over a typewriter and battling against a constant sniffle in their garret. The truth is, a proofreader is very much like you and I in that they want your work to be the best it can possibly be. I have been proofreading for over ten years now, and I have worked on commercial publications, books, novels, dissertations, PHD works…all kinds of things! The one thing I can promise you is that the writer and the proofreader will always have the same end goal; to create the best piece of work that best represents you as a writer.

A Bit About Me

My name is Nicola, aka The Red Pen. As mentioned, I have been working in various types of proofreading for over ten years, and have been running my own proofreading business for almost four of those. It may seem odd to some people, but there really is nothing better than reading a story and making it work, be that through correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, or through changes made to the story. Some stories do need more work than others, but that doesn’t make them any better or worse. In fact, it’s very important to me that I take each story on its own merit, as I appreciate that a story is as individual as a person. I am a writer too, one of those ones that’s always working on their grand novel. Because of this, I know how important it is to treat every story with kindness and care.

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I studied theatre at Dartington College of Arts for my undergraduate, then went to Brunel in Uxbridge to study a Master’s in “Creative Writing; The Novel”. My lecturers were Fay Weldon, Max Kinnings and Will Self, among others, so it was a great hub of creativity and writing. Between these I had been working for cosmetics company Lush, contributing to their magazine, The Lush Times, and working with the editorial team that built their website. My proofreading and editing work really began officially then, but I was proofreading dissertations as far back as my first degree. My aptitude for proofreading and editing is handy, as it’s also something I love doing! I love going through writing, usually other people’s (my own isn’t as much fun!) and helping the writer make their work the best it can possibly be. This is the main reason I like to encourage people to use a proofreader; having a second pair of eyes, especially an objective pair of eyes, can make all the difference to your writing.

Do I Need a Proofreader?

The simple answer here will always be “YES”! Your own writing is so hard to be objective about, and even asking a friend or relative, or even partner, to check it over won’t give you the same honesty a proofreader will give you. Some people might think this is a good thing, after all, who wants a complete stranger reading your work and trashing it? Don’t worry! A proofreader isn’t there to like your story. They aren’t looking at whether it’s something they’ll enjoy themselves, a good proofreader knows a good story will always have an audience.children's illustrator

If you have written a story, or a poem, or even a short tale, you can bet there are parts that could be made even better. Whether it’s by adding a few commas, or changing a word here and there, there’s always something that can be added (or taken away) to make your story that bit better. A proofreader knows your work is precious to you, and we understand that you want this story to be the best it can possibly be; we want that too!

What Does a Proofreader Do?

Essentially a proofreader will read your work and let you know what needs to change to make the story read in the best way it can, whilst checking all spelling, grammar and punctuation. The story is the main thing here, and getting that to work is key. It is scary getting another person to read your work, and it’s scary thinking that you may be told it’s all wrong and needs to change. Don’t worry, this won’t happen. Elements of the story may need changing to make the story work, or there may be parts that don’t make sense in their current form. A good proofreader will be trying to tease the best parts of your story out of you. You’ll find that most proofreaders are also writers, so they understand how exposing it is to reveal your story, and how vulnerable it can make you feel. That’s totally normal, and understandable.

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Don’t worry if you throw away lots of words before you find the right ones

The proofreader will do what they can to make you comfortable with your own story, as well as helping to mould it to work for you. This actually crosses over into editing, which is something I do as well. I personally can’t separate the two, there’s only one of me! Editing is the bit after proofreading, where the problems have been identified and you then have to fix them. I’ll do a certain amount of this (basic spelling, grammar and punctuation) but I won’t change the story. It’s your story; I will let you know where things may need work, but I will leave it to you to do this. We can work around the story until you tell me that you’re happy with it. I can advise you if there’s more to do, but I always say that it’s your story and you need to be comfortable with how it changes over time. Most stories don’t need as much as the writer thinks they do; writers are always overly-critical, as we all are when it comes to our own work. The most important thing you need to do during the proofreading process is to keep an open mind. If feedback is given and you don’t agree with it, question why you don’t agree. Ask yourself how the changes affect your work, and perhaps even try it out. If you still don’t agree then just don’t change the story! It doesn’t matter to me because it isn’t my story. I want it to be the best you can make it. I can’t write it for you, or re-work it in your style and voice. That’s your job, I am here to advise and suggest.

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 How Can I Find a Proofreader?

Here I am! My e-mail is, and if you’ve been in touch with Sarah already you will probably have been told about me. I am currently building my website,, and that is going live this year. Please do drop me an e-mail to talk through your work, or to ask any questions that aren’t answered here.

What I Offer

I offer a combined proofreading and editing service. I work to a set amount of hours that we agree on, based on how long I think it will take, and charge accordingly. When you first contact me I will ask you to send me your story(ies) so that I can quote you a time frame and price. If it doesn’t take as long then I only charge you the hours I’ve actually worked, and if it takes longer I will let you know before I have worked those hours, send you what I’ve done so far, and then we can agree on another few hours if you think it’s needed. Once I have proofed it I will send it back to you in order for you to action any amendments you’d like to make, and then you can send it back to me for another check. We will do this as many times as it takes to make sure you are happy. It’s important that you send the manuscript back to me once it’s been proofed and you have had the time to amend the story, because then I can make sure the changes you have made are correct, and that it hasn’t created any other issues. Quite often you’ll find that revisiting the work once I’ve made amendments will throw up all kinds of things you hadn’t noticed to begin with, and I’ve had writers add entire paragraphs when revisiting work, so I’ll need to check any changes. I will invoice you with my bank details so you can pay via BACS online.