How to Choose the Right Proofreading Service

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When it comes to getting your paper proofread, there are literally hundreds of proofreading services from which you can choose. Wading through their unique service offerings and understanding their points of differentiation can be difficult.

A recent Online English Editor article looked at four benefits of using a proofreading service. With the merits of using a proofreading service in mind, this article will detail five areas of differentiation between proofreading services. With this information in hand, you will be more prepared to pick the proofreading service that it is right for you.

Expertise of the Proofreading Service and Service Offerings

Some proofreading services are built around an area of expertise. For example, some service providers specialize in books, academic writing, or business writing. At the same time, some proofreading services operate more as generalists and work with a wide variety of writing genres.

Does your paper need to conform to a writing style guide? If so, you will want to ensure that the proofreading service you select is familiar with that guide. Nearly all proofreading services will be familiar with the major style guides: Modern Language Association (MLA), Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago), and American Psychological Association (APA). Things can become a little trickier if your paper needs to conform to a unique house style.

The services performed by proofreading companies can also differ significantly. As a starting point, it is helpful to understand what editing and proofreading actually mean. Unfortunately, the definitions of editing and proofreading are not black and white. The two terms can mean very different things among different individuals and groups (even within the same industry).

Different Strengths
Proofreaders have different strengths and expertise.

Generally, proofreading is focused on ensuring that a text adheres to English language rules. Specifically, it focuses on ensuring the accuracy of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. At the same time, the term editing is frequently used to refer to improving the structure, flow, language style, and clarity of a paper.

Again, it is important to recognize that the terms proofreading and editing have very different meanings among geographic regions, industries, and even proofreading services. Setting aside terminology, what becomes important is determining what type of help you want on your paper. Equipped with clarity on what type of help you are seeking, you will be able to compare proofreaders against your specific requirements.

Pricing and Payment Options

Price is a significant consideration for most writers when choosing a proofreading service. Unless the spelling and grammar check on your word processor is your proofreader (not recommended!), there will be a cost involved with having your paper proofread. As a very rough guide, prices per page can range from as low as a few dollars (USD) up to around $20 (USD) per page. The turnaround time you require will influence how much it will cost to proofread your paper.

Proofreaders typically advertise the price of their services based on a per page or per word basis. This difference can complicate comparisons between services but should not be a cause for confusion. Service providers that advertise on a per page basis still usually use a per word price to calculate your quote. To determine the per word, simply divide the per page price by the number of words that the proofreader considers to be one page.

While on the topic of prices, payment options are also worth a mention. Most large proofreading services will accept payment via all major credit cards. Payment using PayPal is sometimes also an option. The ability to use your preferred payment method may be important to you in choosing a proofreader.

Globes on Shelf
Geographic location is a relevant consideration when choosing a proofreading service.

Physical Location

Most writers use the internet to find and research proofreaders. Related to the point on expertise, the location of the proofreading service may be relevant. A proofreader’s physical location becomes relevant because of the vocabulary and spelling used by the different English dialects.

Although there are thousands of localized English dialects, the three most common general dialects of English are: British, North American, and Australasian. If you are writing for an audience specific to one of these three regions, you likely want to work with a proofreading service based in that region with its strength in that dialect. 

Turnaround Time

Turnaround time is also a point of differentiation among proofreading services. Many proofreaders will be able to return your paper within 24 hours. The primary determinate as to whether your paper can be returned the next day will be its length. It is not uncommon for papers shorter than 20 pages to be eligible for next-day return.

Turnaround time will dictate the cost to have your paper proofread. Express delivery times will attract higher rates, whereas slower delivery times will result in more affordable prices. Smaller independent proofreaders, although less likely to offer express turnaround times, may offer more personalized service – something highly valued by many writers.

Files Types Accepted by the Proofreading Service

A final consideration and point of differentiation is the file types accepted by proofreading services. It won’t be any help if the file type you use can’t be accessed by the proofreader. Most writers use one of the common word processors from major global brands. You will find that nearly all proofreading services accept at least one, if not all, of the file types used by these common word processors. If you are using an uncommon word processor, it may be difficult to find a proofreader that accepts your file type. 


Choosing a proofreading service to assist with your paper can initially seem daunting. A good place to start is by clarifying what assistance you require for your paper. You can then use the above points of differentiation for comparing proofreading services. With a little a bit of effort, you will be able to find the proofreader that’s right for your paper.

Post by Online English Editor.  

Online English Editor is a professional proofreading service.