During my 25 years proofreading, I have worked directly with just one female proofreader. Just one. I’ve worked with plenty of women who were typesetters and page make-up artists, who also turned their hand to proofreading but only one full-time dedicated female proofreader.
The women who contributed to and supported the proofreading function of the businesses I worked for were, without exception, first-rate proofreaders, and the full-time female proofreader was one of the best proofreaders I’ve ever worked with. She was meticulous, observant and inquisitive. She would never have allowed me to complete a sentence with “one of the best proofreaders I’ve ever worked with.” She would have insisted upon “one of the best proofreaders with whom I’ve ever worked.” She was a far better proofreader than me. Sorry. She was a far better proofreader than I.
I’m not sure why the proofreading specialism is so male-dominated. And not just male-dominated but specifically dominated by men who think grey slacks and beige cardigans with suede elbow pads are the perfect sartorial choice for expressing ‘the inner me’.
It could be that, as with all male-dominated industries, it is a self-perpetuating phenomenon: the men who dominate the profession actively resisting any women who express an interest in entering the arena. Or maybe it’s just the sight of all that beige putting women off. Or maybe most women just don’t think that a proofreading career is particularly enticing. They’ve got a point. It’s not exactly Silent Witness, is it?
It’s a shame, because, in my experience, women make truly outstanding proofreaders.
Anyway, I got to wondering why the female proofreaders I’ve worked with have always been top-notch. So, I did a little research and it turns out that there are a number of scientifically supported reasons why…
... Women Make Better Proofreaders than Men: FACT.
Women Make Better Proofreaders because they have a Better Grasp of Grammar: FACT.
According to the website of the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University, “Women start to speak and read at an earlier age than men and are generally better in verbal skills, such as learning a different language. They tend to have a better grasp on grammar and spelling.”
Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has revealed that female brains possess more of the ‘language protein’ known as Foxp2. Cheryl Sisk, a researcher at Michigan State, explains the study: “The higher levels of Foxp2 expression are found in the more communicative sex in each species.” In the case of humans, Foxp2 is found in greater quantities in women.
This may help explain why “girls tend to speak earlier and with greater complexity than boys of the same age,” said the study’s authors.
Women Make Better Proofreaders because they Pay Closer Attention to Detail: FACT.
According to a study presented at the annual Improving University Teaching conference at the University of Strathclyde, female students pay more attention to detail while male students take a "rule-of-thumb" approach to learning, drawing conclusions based on less information.
The study found that female students had a much more positive attitude to their academic studies, and paid far more attention to detail.
Women Make Better Proofreaders because they have Neater Handwriting: FACT.
As a proofreader, you frequently have to cram large amounts of information into narrow margins, so tidy, controlled handwriting is not just important, it's critical. If someone carrying out your corrections misinterprets one of your marks or comments, the results can be catastrophic. Well, okay, not catastrophic. But certainly embarrassing. For someone.
According to a 1992 article in Scientific American, women do better on precision manual tasks.
Women Make Better Proofreaders because they are Natural Multitaskers: FACT.
Men's brains are wired front to back, with few connections bridging the two hemispheres. In women's brains, the pathways criss-cross between left and right.
According to researchers in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) these differences might explain why men, in general, tend to be better at learning and performing a single task, whereas women are far better at multitasking.
The proofreading methodology I have created for The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course is very linear to ensure a no-stone-unturned approach. However, it may well be that women can combine two or more of the steps I describe into a single 'pass of the page' rapidly speeding-up their proofreading efforts.
Women Make Better Proofreaders because they are more Organised: FACT.
Organisation is key not only to the process of proofreading itself. If you intend to set yourself up as a freelance proofreader, you will, in effect, be running your own business.
Which means not only will you be proofreading, you'll also be quoting for work, invoicing, running your website, ensuring your records are kept up-to-date, filing your tax return and all the other things that go hand-in-hand with being self-employed. All of this requires considerable organisational skills.
A recent study of 4,000 workers by DYMO revealed that 43% of women claim to be 'very organised' in the workplace, but just 32% of men felt the same way, and 10% of men actually admitted that they had no structure to their work life whatsoever!
The research also revealed that over half of female employers made use of an organised filing system, while just 37% of men used any sort of filing system, preferring to keep their paperwork in a large heap, which they scour through whenever called upon to find something.
40% of women lay claim to a clean and tidy desk, whereas just 30% of men felt they could describe their desk in similar terms.
Women Make Better Proofreaders than Men: FACT.
A better grasp of grammar, closer attention to detail, neater handwriting, a natural talent for multitasking and greater organisational skills. On the strength of the evidence, women were born to proofread.
Want to give it a try? Take a look at my proofreading course.
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My name's Mike Sellars and I'm an experienced proofreader and the author of The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course. Click here to find out more about me.
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