Proofreading

Proofreading is a profession. Unfortunately, proofreading studies have not looked at the complex issue of grammatical errors. Instead, they have focused on the detection of spelling errors.

There are two types of spelling errors. In nonword errors, the misspelling creates a string that is not a real word. So if you are trying to spell the and spell teh, this is a nonword error. Proofreaders often catch 90% of all nonword spelling errors.

For word errors, the misspelling produces a text string that is a real word. If you are trying to spell read and type reed, this is a word error. Humans only catch about 75% of these errors.

Spelling checkers will catch most nonword errors, but they will leave most word errors in the text. In other words, they leave precisely the errors that people have a hard time finding.
 

Source

Event

Word or Nonword Error

Detection Rate

Cohen, G. [1980]

In proofreading, finding an incorrect word in text

Both

76%-94%

Daneman & Stainton [1993]

Proofreading nonword errors 20 minutes after writing. Own / unfamiliar other's

Nonword
Own/Other
20 minutes

81% / 89%

Daneman & Stainton [1993]

Proofreading nonword errors 2 weeks after writing. Own / unfamiliar other's

Nonword
Own/Other
2 weeks

88% / 91%

Daneman & Stainton [1993]

Proofreading word errors 20 minutes after writing. Own / unfamiliar other's

Word
Own/Other
20 minutes

59% / 76%

Daneman & Stainton [1993]

Proofreading word errors 2 weeks after writing. Own / unfamiliar other's

Word
Own/Other
2 weeks

68% / 83%

Dittmer

Proofreading of material with seeded errors. Had correct text for comparison. Pretest excluded subjects with <90% discovery rate. N=9. Alphanumeric text, not prose. Correction rate if shown simultaneously on screen / if shown side by side.

Unknown
Shown Simultaneously/
Shown side by side

95.3%
/89.3%

Healey [1980]

Proofreading nonword errors in prose by word length. 2 / 3/ 4/ 5/ 6-10. Length 3 may be an artifact.

Nonword
2 characters
3
4
5
6-10

 

92%

99%

94%

77%

72%

Levy & Begin [1984]

Proofreading prose for spelling errors. Nonword errors found in easy prose if familiar by prior reading, unfamiliar. Based on Levy [1983] but without limited proofreading time.

Nonword
Simple
Familiar/
Unfamiliar

83%/86%

Levy & Begin [1984]

Proofreading prose for spelling errors. Nonword errors not found in difficult prose if familiar by prior reading, unfamiliar. Based on Levy [1983] but without limited proofreading time.

Nonword
Complex
Familiar/
Unfamiliar

83%-88%

 

Levy [1983]

Proofreading prose for spelling errors. Nonword errors found in difficult prose if familiar by prior reading, unfamiliar. Limited proofreading time.

Nonword
Time-Constrained

61%-74%

Levy, Di Persio, & Hollingshead [1992]

Proofreading prose for spelling errors. Nonword errors found.

Nonword

86%-87%

 

Levy, Di Persio, & Hollingshead [1992]

Proofreading prose for spelling errors. Word errors found.

Word

69%

Levy, Di Persio, & Hollingshead [1992]

Proofreading prose for spelling errors. Word errors not found in first reading of a passage / fourth reading. Same passage each time. New errors introduced. Two trials.

Word
First Reading
Fourth Reading
(Different Seeded Errors)

69% - 79% /

69% - 73%

Riefer [1991]

Proofreading for nonword misspellings. Simple material / Difficult material / Difficult material, 2 passes

Nonword
Simple Material

84%-86%

Nonword
Difficult

47%-58%

Nonword
Difficult, 2 passes

56%-68%

Riefer [1991]

Proofreading. Nonword / Word errors

Nonword

84%-86%

Word

42%-62%

Spirrison & Gordy [1993]

Proofreading 385-word passage in 3 minutes. 49 seeded errors. Health effects of vitamin D.
73 Males / 120 Females. Undergraduate students.

Unknown

76%

Wallace [1991]

Proofreading for nonword spelling errors in Time magazine passages. Vivid imagers / Poor imagers. 

Nonword

93.5%

Nonword

91.2%

 

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