Main Points

History is Now

Thank you for checking out how to become a proofreader for Earth Chronicle. We have many interesting essays, and they all need to be reviewed for professionalism and clarity. If you're interested in helping out contact us and let us know!

Proofreading Guidelines

It is each author’s responsibility to create the best possible essay, and we expect them to double check their submissions for readability, grammar, and punctuation. However, even the best writers can use a different perspective, a fresh look at their writing, and a second pair of eyes to look for mistakes.

Also, remember that submissions to Earth Chronicle must be of the highest quality in all respects. So if you find editing, research, or public domain issues, chime in; those are your secondary responsibilities. If you notice an idea or quotation that isn’t properly cited, go ahead and address it! Don’t hope that someone else will catch it. If you recognize a paragraph that has been plagiarized from a magazine article or a book that the researcher hasn’t read, then you're our only hope. Ideally, you will work collaboratively as part of a team whether you get a chance to meet them or not.

In general, we follow MLA format with only a few modifications. MLA format follows mostly common sense rules, and once you are familiar with it, it is rare that you need to refer back to the manual. This "lighter" style makes it preferable to more "scholarly" guides like the Chicago / Turabian style. MLA is also published by a national organization, and while the University of Chicago is one of the finest institutions in higher education, it lacks the broad authority and membership which the Modern Language Association can claim. The only other serious contender for a style manual is AP style. The international character of the AP was very attractive, as was the copious practical instances for handling international and multi-lingual issues. However, in the end this was also it's Achilles' heel. While I would have liked to use AP, it's SO practical that I find myself having to refer to it frequently. AP doesn't have the same sense of structure and rules underlying it which makes MLA so simple to use. MLA feels like the rules are part of an organic whole, while AP feels like it was thrown together by reporters in dozens of different news rooms. This also leads to some strange and unexpected rules, the most bizarre being AP's practice of dropping the final serial comma. So while MLA needs some help to be formally extended in some cases, it provides a much smoother, solid, sensible foundation on which to build.

Now... if that just bored the hell out of you, maybe you would consider becoming an editor for our articles. Editors are concerned with maximizing the readability of articles. Or perhaps you can help out in other ways.

Proofreading Principles

On the other hand, if this sounds like your cup of tea, please consider getting involved; we'd love to have your help! Before applying all those rules, I'd like to share some principles I've developed in my own experience as a proofreader. We do want to follow common sense, and ensure that all our articles are written as professionally and correctly as possible. There is an important caveat, however. I've proofread my own papers for a couple dozen different English professors while earning my MA in English, and proofread other people's papers for perhaps a hundred more professors. Not One professor has had the same interpretation about the rules of punctuation, much less grammar. Moreover, each professor I've ever discussed this with refuses to believe that a different professor could think differently. Obviously, they don’t talk about it with each other much. Grrrrrrrr... So if all my English professors can’t agree on what’s correct grammar and punctuation, I don't believe that Earth Chronicle should worry about, much less try to create, world grammatical peace. I would much rather Earth Chronicle uphold a common sense principle to the rules of grammar and punctuation:

If applying a rule makes a submission more readable and clearer, then it is absolutely necessary. If a rule does not contribute to the quality of the writing or makes it more difficult to understand, it is unnecessary at best.

In short, there is no need to put commas everywhere your style manual says; even my 8th grade English teacher (hardly my most learned mentor) recognized that this was simply "comma crazy". Similarly, there is no need to rewrite Star Trek's dramatic injunction from "To boldly go where no one has gone before!" into "To go boldly..." simply because the style manual recommends purging split infinitives. Sometimes conjunctions begin sentences quite nicely and prepositions sometimes sit just fine at the end of a sentence. The goal of writing is to effect communication, and many people have very unique speech and writing patterns. This is part of the character of how they communicate, and a good proofreader is equally adept at preserving both an author's individual voice and the sanctity of the English language. Imagine the mess that a junior proofreader could make of Dr. Seuss, or William Carlos Williams, or E. E. Cummings. Your job is to polish essays so that they are professional and ready for publication, not "sanitize" them. If you follow the old adage "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." you'll be a great proofreader, removing the errors and the mistakes, while leaving the author inside the work comfortably shiny and new and looking better than ever. If you'd like more information, check out our Proofreader’s Bible. And if you're interested in becoming a proofreader, email us by clicking here!