Well, to quote the inimitable Edwin Starr, absolutely nothing. Well, pretty much nothing...
Let’s be clear, there are potential employers out there who will consider some form of official proofreading qualification to be an important signifier of the requisite level of proofreading skill. But they are very much – very much – in the minority. The odd high-brow literary publisher, perhaps, but that’s pretty much it. And bear in mind, there’s a lot of proofreading work out there, and very little of it is to be found within the walls of high-brow literary publishers. Proofreaders are employed by advertising agencies, public relations companies, charities, retailers, solicitors, insurance companies, local government agencies and the publicity departments of almost any organisation you care to think of. Wherever documents are being created for public consumption, there are copywriters, content writers, designers, page make-up artists, typesetters and, perhaps most importantly of all, proofreaders.
It is in these non-literary outfits that you’ll find the most lucrative employment, the most substantial contracts. And I assure you, nobody is going to ask to see a piece of paper, no matter how elaborate the calligraphy, no matter how cute the fake wax seal. The subject of proofreading qualifications won’t even come up.
How do I know? Because I’ve worked for advertising agencies, public relations companies, charities... Nobody once asked to see a beribboned scroll. What’s more, for several years I managed a production team in the design studio of one of the UK’s largest online retailers, where, amongst other things, I was responsible for the hiring, training and personal development of proofreaders. I never once asked to see a proofreading qualification, and the human resources department never added it to the recruitment criteria when drawing-up job specifications.
Why would they? There’s an easier way to ascertain if a proofreader has the necessary skills. A much easier way. You test them. Unlike copy editing, proofreading is, by and large, an analogue activity. A document is either right or it’s wrong. There are mistakes or there aren’t (but there almost always are). All our proofreaders were rigorously tested before they were handed that all important contract. The proof is, indeed, in the pudding.
If you still feel the tug of the proofreading qualification, try a little research. Visit five different recruitment websites (Monster.com, that kind of thing) and key the word ‘proofreader’ (or ‘proof reader’) into the search box. Then look at the recruitment criteria for each proofreader position advertised. I can guarantee that you won’t come across very many (if any, at all) demanding a proofreading qualification.
Proofreading qualifications, what are they good for?
Say it again...