A Discussion with Elle Sandy About the Business of Proofreading

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” ― Oscar Wilde

Ed Newman
Ed Newman
Mar 28 · 6 min read
Elle, looking at the stars with our mutual grandparents, 1956.

lle Sandy is a professional proofreader/editor. We first met in Maine when I was one year old. She is my cousin and there is a great photo I have cherished all my life of my grandparents’ four firstborns (all born in 1951–52). My second favorite memory of Elle was frog hunting in Boston when we were eight years old. After circuitous careers, we re-connected through social media. She’s an avid reader with keen powers of attention to detail, well-suited to a late life career as a pro proofreader.

In this era of deteriorating standards regarding the rules of grammar and usage, I thought it would be helpful to let other writers know Elle is a superb editor and proofreader who still has room in her schedule for new clients. Whether sending a manuscript to a publisher for consideration or self-publishing a book or major document, you really want to put your best foot forward. Elle Sandy can help you.

EN: You’ve always been an avid reader. Who or what were your biggest influences in this regard?

Elle Sandy: The joke about me has always been that I’m the sort of person that will read the ketchup bottle on the table if there is nothing else available. My earliest reading memories of any consequence were reading both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries under the tree between our house and the one next door with the boy next door. I brought the Nancy Drew books, he brought the Hardy Boys. That lasted until I discovered my father’s collection of science fiction, mostly Ace Double Books. These were books which had two short novels in each volume, printed upside down from each other. Mysteries were good, but science fiction ignited my imagination! I’ve also always loved fantasy.

Elle Sandy.

Alice in Wonderland was a long-standing favorite of mine. I had an illustrated volume with both Alice stories in it which I loved because it was annotated, giving the background for all the British “in” jokes, such as the Cheshire Cat and why the Hatter was Mad. I guess you’d say the authors who first formed my love of reading were Carolyn Keene and Lewis Carroll.

EN: Are you affiliated with a group of proofreaders?

ES: Yes, there are some Facebook groups, private ones, that are proofreading groups I became associated with as a student of proofreading. However, there is also a group I have recently become a member of, the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors, NAIWE. I’m still getting my footing there. The place where I have decided to “put up my shingle,” so to speak, is Fiverr, a freelancer’s shop. I have a gig listed there as a medical proofreader, since I also have earned a Certificate in Medical Transcription. Fiverr requires that some freelancers, like me, prove their proficiency so clients can be sure their freelance hires know what they are doing.

EN: I agree with you that there is a lot of bad spelling and grammar on social media. What’s especially atrocious is how many self-published books have been produced seemingly without being proofed at all. Care to comment on this?

ES: My fellow proofreading graduates and I have been known to bemoan the apparent blatant disregard many authors have for the printed word that they rely on to communicate. It is painful at times to read a newspaper, magazine, or book that desperately needs proofreading. Most could use a good editor as well. Sentence fragments are often orphaned. Other sentences are page long run-on sentences. Granted, there are some great writers who use excessively long sentences, but that is not something everyone can pull off well. I know that good editing and proofreading can be a bit costly, but by scrimping on these services, most writers are being penny wise and pound foolish. Readers will only buy bad authors once or twice before they have had enough, and guessing at the meaning of a sentence with incorrect punctuation and spelling can be very confusing.

Her workstation. (Photo supplied)

EN: Do you have any specific kinds of clients that you are seeking to work for?

ES: As I mentioned, I have earned a certificate in Medical Transcription, so I am particularly interested in medical proofreading. However, I will proofread just about anything, with the exception of biographies and technical material which have a tendency to put me to sleep! I do charge a bit more for medical proofreading, because it is exacting and requires specialized knowledge. But I enjoy ferreting out and correcting errors. It’s almost like a puzzle that requires special knowledge and attention to detail. I worked on the Gutenberg Project for a while, and still go back now and again, even though it is largely volunteer, because I find it challenging.

EN: There are a number of different style manuals. Which are the most popular today and why?

ES: First, let’s define what a style manual is. A style manual (or guide, or sheet) is a set of rules for writing. The standard has changed over the years, because the language has changed and even technology has impacted the rules we write by. You would choose a particular style sheet because the industry standard is different for the different purposes of writing. For a scholarly or academic writing, you would probably want to use the APA (American Psychological Association) guide, but for a newspaper article, you would want to follow the AP (Associated Press) style guide. While you can choose any style sheet you want to follow, it’s usually best to choose the sheet that your prospective publisher follows. The one I usually use is CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style) because most book publishers follow it. However, if I’m proofreading for medical journals or a thesis, I’ll use the APA guide. The differences aren’t huge, but can be confusing to someone who doesn’t know the difference.

EN: What are you doing to promote your services?

ES: Aside from doing interviews like this, you mean? Currently, I’m mostly networking and gaining a reputation, I hope, through some volunteer work, like the Gutenberg Project. I do occasionally speak to people I run into who have web pages, and offer to look them over. My services are listed with several social media sites, like LinkedIn, and I’m offering my services through freelancer’s sites, like Fiverr. I hope these efforts will bear fruit. For all your readers who are writers, remember, it is very easy to overlook your own errors, and then you have to bare — excuse me, that should be bear — the consequences!

EN: How long have you been a paid proofreader and how did you get into this line of work?

ES: As with many of my fellow proofreaders, I have felt bothered by the lack of good writing in social media. Mostly, we try to just ignore the people who say “we went over to there house” or “I wanted 2 go 2”, but find that we have a desire to make the world more readable. I don’t think that many of my fellow students thought they had many things wrong in the areas of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word choice.

That is before we got involved in a class in proofreading.

My particular downfall was commas. I came to think of them as little wild animals, and I was definitely not alone in that! However, with persistence and a perfectionist streak, I have learned how to place them correctly. I have a love of reading and the printed word, and have always felt that proper use of the English language minimized the number of misunderstandings and helped to further civilized debate. So, when my husband died last year, I looked around for something to do with writing. I found a course which I was sure I could complete by the end of the pandemic, and sure enough, last December I earned a Certificate in Proofreading. At the age of 69, I had a new career.

To contact Elle Sandy, visit her page on Fiverr.

Though she specializes in proofreading medical documents, you may contact her for other kinds of proofreading projects. If she is unable to take an assignment, she’s part of an association that has reliable, capable help for your proofing needs.


How to be your best self.

Ed Newman

Written by

Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon


Make tomorrow better today.

Ed Newman

Written by

Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon


Make tomorrow better today.

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