Beginning Proofreaders' FAQs

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DP Official Documentation - Proofreading
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Welcome to Distributed Proofreaders!

These FAQs provide answers to common questions asked by proofreaders when they join Distributed Proofreaders (DP). If you don't find an answer here, please look in our other official documentation pages and the DP Wiki Main Page, or email us at DP Help.

If you're looking for a brief introduction to Distributed Proofreaders in general, our origins, and our process, please visit the New Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions page.

What does "proofreading" mean at DP?

At DP, proofreading or "proofing" means carefully comparing the OCR text with the page image, marking errors found and dealing with such items as page headers and end-of-line hyphenation in order to make the text consistent with our guidelines.

DP's Primary Proofreading Rule is "Don't change what the author wrote!" This can mean ignoring outdated spelling and punctuation, infelicitous wording, and even errors of fact.

The changes that we make in proofreading come in two categories:

Errors in the OCR text

If the OCR produced "t3xt" from an image that shows "text", in proofreading we correct the OCR error, changing "t3xt" to "text". If however the image really displays "t3xt", leave the OCR "t3xt" alone but leave a note, like this: [**text] immediately following "t3xt": "t3xt[**text]" to indicate that it could be a printer's error. Later in the process a Post-Processor will go through the notes and decide what action to take when preparing the final e-text for publication.

If you'd like a better sense of these errors in the OCR text, check out this list of common errors proofers find.

Consistency Changes

These changes involve dealing with end-of-line hyphenation, poetry, page headers, and a number of other issues. We make changes so that each page we work on will be consistent and can be added seamlessly to make an e-text. Changes of this type are all detailed in the Proofreading Guidelines.

How do I get started?

All new proofreaders start by completing all five pages of the interactive proofreading quiz in order to learn how to proofread according to Distributed Proofreading standards. New proofreaders are also encouraged to read through the tutorials associated to the quiz before starting proofreading.

Once you have completed the basic quiz, you're ready to start working in the Proofreading Round 1 (P1). If you go to the P1 home page and scroll down to Projects Currently Available, you will find a list of projects ready to be proofread.

Please read the Proofreading Guidelines and any project-specific comment that a Project Manager may have provided before starting to proofread. You may find it helpful to print out a copy of the PDF Summary, a two-page document that covers the basics of proofreading in the proofreading rounds. There are also helpful interactive Proofreading Quizzes and Tutorials.

Detailed Steps

Note: If you use iOS11 or later to proofread and haven't already disabled "Smart" punctuation, your device may insert characters such as curly quotes that are not valid at Distributed Proofreaders for proofreading. This will cause an error when you try to save the page. To correct this, please go to Preferences -> General -> Keyboard on your device and turn off Smart Punctuation.

1. You will need to successfully complete all five pages of the interactive proofreading quiz, and are encouraged to read through their associated tutorials: before starting proofreading.

2. Once you have successfully completed the quiz pages, select the P1 link at the top of the page.

3. Scroll down the page to the list of Projects Currently Available.

4. Select a project by clicking on the project's title link. It's best to select a "BEGINNERS ONLY" project if one is available in a language in which you are proficient. BEGINNERS ONLY projects have been specially prepared to teach you our style of proofing. You can expect to receive feedback from a mentor on pages you proofread in BEGINNERS ONLY projects. This feedback will likely come at least a few days after you have completed the pages.

5. Once you click on the project's title, a Project Page will appear. Scroll down the page and read the Project Comments which contain instructions specific to the book you have chosen.

6. Once you're ready to start proofreading, locate the "Start Proofreading" link at the bottom of the Project Comments section. Click on the link, and the next available page will open in a proofreading interface window ready for proofreading.

7. Compare the text in the text box with what is in the associated image. Change the text to match the image if it doesn't already do so, taking into account the instructions in the Proofreading Guidelines and the Project Comments. As you proofread, please keep in mind that you should not change what the author wrote. If the author spelled words oddly, we leave them spelled that way. If the author wrote outrageous racist or biased statements, we leave them that way. If the author used commas after every third word, we keep the commas. We are proofreaders, not editors or modernizers.

8. When you've finished proofreading the page, click on either the "Save as 'Done'" or "Save as 'Done' & Proofread Next Page" button. Congratulations--you've just proofread your first page!

9. If you have questions, please don't hesitate to ask them in the project's associated discussion topic in the forums (the link to the project's topic is on the Project Page above the Project Comments).

10. Once you've proofread several pages, it’s a good idea to:

  • Work through the automated interactive Basic Proofreading Quizzes and Tutorials at to get instant feedback and gain confidence in your understanding of the Distributed Proofreaders proofreading process.

For feedback on projects other than Beginners Only, please send a message to dp-feedback via email ( ) or private message ( )

What project should I choose?

While you can proofread any project that interests you, please consider starting with a BEGINNERS ONLY project. If you do, you will receive a welcome and feedback from an experienced proofreader who works as a P2 Mentor.

This message will appear as a private message in your Inbox. (Note that you will need to have your forum preferences set to allow users to send you private messages, which is the default; if you change this option to "No" your mentor might not be able to contact you.)

Projects are labelled EASY, AVERAGE, and HARD. After completing some BEGINNERS ONLY pages, you might like to try some EASY projects. Don't be afraid to try any project, though. If you run into a page you decide you'd rather not proofread, you can always press the "Return Page to Round" button and let someone else handle it.

How does the proofreading interface work?

Press the ? button near the lower right corner to get help for the various buttons on the proofreading interface. For more information on the interface, please see Proofing Interface tips and tricks.

What if my native language is not English?

Please join in! We have a lively international community, although most of the documentation and discussions are in English. We proofread books in numerous languages, and you can filter the books in all rounds by language to find a project you feel comfortable with. The Team Talk section of the forum includes discussion threads for a number of national/lingual teams with conversation in various languages.

Proofreading Questions

How many pages can I proofread per day

In our P1 round, volunteers can proofread up to and including 90 pages per day. In our P2 round, volunteers can proofread up to and including 120 pages per day. Please remember though that proofreading requires attention to detail and that can be slow -- which is perfectly fine: we're trying to make our books as free of errors as possible rather than rushing through as many pages as we can.

What do I do with mistakes in the text?

Our main goal is to preserve texts as the authors wrote them. This means we don't update spelling or punctuation. For example, "to-day" is not changed to "today", and "flavour" is not changed to "flavor" (or vice versa). If you spot a typo (printer's error) or an inconsistency, please leave a [**note] in the text. For more information, please read the guideline re: proofing errors.

How do I handle this weird thingie in my project?

First, check the Proofreading Guidelines.

You might find it helpful to print out a copy of the PDF Summary, a two-page document that covers the basics of proofreading. Other proofreaders prefer to keep the full Guidelines open in another browser tab or window while proofreading.

The next place to look for answers is the project thread. Find the project thread by following the link labeled "Discuss this project" or "Start a discussion on this project" that appears on the project page. If you don't find your answer, please ask! Click the "Reply" button near the bottom of the forum screen and type your message. Someone will be by shortly to answer.

You can also find lots of information on the Wiki (particularly in the DP Official Documentation area) and in the Forums. Both of these are accessible via the navigation bar at the top of most pages on the site. You will also find links to DP's Key Help Documents near the top of the side margin on each site page.

What if there is a lot of mathematical equations in the text?

Do not worry about the mathematics. Non-mathematicians are expressly encouraged to proofread these projects. Please read the book's Project Page instructions for details. You may also find the Proofreading Math wiki page useful if the Project Manager indicates the project will be using a system called LaTeX.

Why am I getting non-consecutive pages?

When you click "Start Proofreading," the DP system gives you the next available page in the project. Let's say that you are proofreading page 100.png. If someone else requests a page in the project while you are working on your page, that proofreader will be given 101.png. Then when you request another page, 101.png has already been taken, and you will be given the next available page which might be 102.png or another non-consecutive page.

Many DPers enjoy leapfrogging through a project in this way, deliberately proofreading the same project at the same time as other volunteers--this is known as "groofing."

What if I did something wrong?

Don't panic. We all make mistakes. If you later think you made a mistake on a page in a particular project, go back to the Project Page for that project. Just before the Project Comments section, you'll see links to the last five pages that you have saved as DONE or IN PROGRESS. (If no links appear, the project has completed that round, and you can no longer edit your pages.) Click on the page link for the page you wish to work on to open the proofing interface for that page and make the correction.

If you'd like to edit a page other than one of the last five pages you worked on, click on the "Just my Pages" link on the Project Page. That will take you to the Page Details table, which will list all of the pages you proofread in that project. Click on the "Edit" link next to the page you want to open, make the required change or changes, and save again as DONE.

If the project has completed and left the round by the time you realize you made a mistake, don't worry. It's happened to all of us. As you will no longer be able to edit the page yourself, please post to the project's forum discussion thread, making sure to specify the png number of the relevant page. You can reach that thread by clicking on the "Discuss this project" or "Start a discussion about this project" link on that project's Project Page.

If you are not sure whether you handled something correctly or whether you've found all the instances of an error, please leave a note in the project forum discussion thread. This will alert the proofreader in the next rounds and the post-processor of the need to double-check the page for the issue you specified in your message.

Feel free to leave short notes in the pages as you proofread them if you'd like to leave a comment in the text to highlight a possible problem. Surround your note with square brackets and begin with two asterisks. This ensures that our comments don't get mixed in with the original text. A note would look something like this: John Smyth[**image too faint--I can't tell if it's Smyth or Smith here]

Remember that all your pages will be proofread at least once more in P2, and most of them again in P3. Few mistakes make it by all three proofreaders undetected! (For information on how to qualify for P2 and P3, please see the access requirements.) Even then, there are the post-processing stages in which the e-text will again be checked for errors. So just do your best and don't worry.

How do I know if I'm doing okay?

You have several options to get feedback on your proofreading.

  • BEGIN projects are reserved for the newest volunteers. These books are usually straightforward, without large amounts of complex proofreading issues. There will usually be English BEGINNER ONLY projects in P1, but sometimes non-English projects are available too.
    If you choose a BEGINNER ONLY book when you first start proofreading, within a week or so (maybe less, depending on how busy the mentors are), you'll get some friendly and constructive feedback on your work in that project from an experienced proofreader, known as a P2 Mentor, who will explain what you did right and point out things that might have been overlooked.
  • If you would like comments on pages you have worked on, regardless of difficulty or language, write a PM to dp-feedback or email Please include the project name and the png number of the pages you worked on. Because we have DPers all over the world, the dp-feedback volunteers will get back to you within a very short amount of time. Note too that you can still ask dp-feedback for advice at any time even if you are working in later rounds.
  • The Proofreading Quizzes cover the most common Guidelines, with accompanying tutorials on specific issues. They are interactive with immediate feedback, and they provide an excellent way to ensure that you've got a handle on the Guidelines.
  • It's also a good idea to check your diffs to see what changes have been made to your pages by subsequent proofreaders in later rounds. To do this, click on the link for "My Projects" in the navigation bar at the top of the page. Then select the project you are interested in. From the Project Page, choose the "Just My Pages" link to get the page detail page. There will be a "Diff" column showing which pages were changed in the later rounds. Click on the "diff" link to see those changes. Note that any diff to the left of your name shows changes you made to the text; diffs to the right show changes made by the next proofreader. For more information about how to interpret diffs, please read Checking your diffs.

Resources to Improve Your Proofreading Life (Tweaking the Proofreading Interface)

Can I make the scanned image bigger?

Absolutely! The image pane of both Proofreading Interfaces has a toolbar that gives you several options for zooming in on the proofing image.

How do I make the text box wider?

From the navigation bar at the top of most pages, click on "Prefs". Then pick the "Proofreading" tab. The setting that you're most interested in is "Length of text lines." Change your preferences to the way you want them, then "Save Preferences and Quit." Try proofreading a page to see how it looks--if it's still not right, stop proofreading and choose a different number of characters.

You can change the height and width of the text box in the proofreading interface by dragging on the lower right corner of the text box, but any action that causes a save in progress (such as flipping between horizontal and vertical orientation, or running wordcheck) will return the text box to the size as saved in your proofreading preferences.

Note that there are two settings for most things: one for the horizontal layout, and one for vertical layout, so make sure you're setting defaults for the right one, depending on which layout you are adjusting.

What's that font everyone is raving about?

If you haven't already, try the DP Sans Mono font. You can see a sample of this font here. Some say it is "ugly", but it is specially designed for DP proofreaders, and makes it much easier to spot scannos and spacey quotes than if you were using most other fonts. For example, it is designed to distinguish clearly between zero and the letter "O", between the figure 1 and letter "el", and between the letter "m" and letters "rn". It's important when selecting a proofreading font to use one that clearly shows these types of differences.

DP Sans Mono is available as a webfont, so no installation is required. Simply select the font in your proofreading preferences.

What about spellchecking and WordCheck?

DP's WordCheck is much more than an ordinary spell checker. It does check spelling, but it also flags words that are prone to scannos and highlights punctuation. We strongly recommend you use it from your first day; you will be amazed at the things WordCheck can help you find.

In the Standard proofreading interface, you can find the WordCheck button grouped with the other buttons below the proofreading window. In the Enhanced proofreading interface, the WordCheck button displays a picture of a page with a a blue "S" and checkmark: WordCheck.png

When you run WordCheck, you will have the opportunity to suggest words that appear often in the text for the Good Word List by clicking the little icon to the right of the questionable word. By suggesting words, you will help improve the overall quality of the final e-text and make life easier for subsequent volunteers working on the same project.

If you save a page as done or in-progress without having used WordCheck, an X will be shown (✘) next to that page in the My Recently Completed or In Progress portion of the Project Page. Otherwise, if you have run WordCheck, a checkmark (✓) will be shown. The Page Detail page that displays diffs shows the WordCheck checkmark/X status next to the page number.

More about DP and the Overall Process

Where can I find an explanation of DP's abbreviations?

DP Jargon is the place to go for definitions of DP-specific terms. If you don't find it there, go to the Forums and ask. We're all too happy to explain at every chance we get!

What's in the Forums, and how do I get there?

Browsing in the Forums can help get your feet wet, give you a sense of the community here, and provide a place to ask questions and offer suggestions. You can learn a lot just by following some of the discussions, and you'll meet many interesting and helpful people.

When you register on the main site, you are automatically also registered on the site forums, but you will have to log on to them as well to access them. You do NOT need to register separately to access them.

Why are there teams?

Teams are a way for DPers to organize their efforts and to socialize. We have several types of teams:

  1. teams that specialize in particular types of proofreading and formatting, e.g., Turn the Tables; Ad Addicts; Junkies, Index; Smooth Readers
  2. teams that coordinate efforts within a particular round, including the P2 Alternative proofers, Music Team, Illustrators
  3. teams devoted to working on projects in a specific language, e.g., Team Germany, en français, Team Italia
  4. teams united by interests outside of DP, e.g., cats, knitting, dogs ....

All teams have a discussion thread. You can find these in the Team Talk section of the Forums. You don't have to be a member of a team to participate in these discussions. While you are a member of a team, though, the pages that you proofread will be added to that team's statistics. You may be a member of no more than three teams at a time, but you can change your team memberships at any time.

For a full list of available teams, please see our Teams List

What are my "career options"?

All new proofreaders start by working in Proofreading Round 1 (P1). After a certain amount of time, experience, and expertise, you can work in the later rounds, both proofreading and formatting. For details, check out the access requirements. Monitor your progress toward the requirements and apply for access on the home pages for each round, starting with P2 and F1, and later, if you are interested, P3 and F2.

In addition to working in the rounds, you can also help by:

  • Smooth Reading -- reading a book that is almost ready for posting to Project Gutenberg and reporting anything that disrupts the sense or flow of the book.
  • locating and preparing books to process through DP as a Content Provider;
  • facilitating projects through the rounds as a Project Manager; or
  • creating an e-text from the output of the rounds as a Post-Processor.

More details on each of these roles is part of the New Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions pages in the wiki. To learn more about how to participate in each of these activities, please read the access requirements page.

What is a release queue?

DP accomplishes things by harnessing the work of dispersed volunteers. We don't want to spread our efforts too thinly, so only about 200 books are available to be worked on in each round at any one time.

Once a book has finished one round, it moves to a release queue, a holding area for projects waiting to be released into the rounds for active proofreading or formatting.

Each round has a queue of its own, and within each round's "master" queue are separate queues for languages, genres, authors, PMs, etc.

The categorizations and release of projects from the queues are managed in such a way as to help ensure that a wide variety of projects are always available in each round. Unfortunately, the queues also mean that some books may wait for a period between rounds, especially if there are many projects of the same kind.

Projects for Newcomers

Note that some P1 projects are reserved for newcomers for the first seven days that a project is in the round, so after you've been registered for more than 21 days and/or proofread more than 500 pages, you too will have to wait seven days before you can work on them in P1.

What if I have other questions?

If you have further questions, please check the New Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions page. You can also read the Information For New and Returning Volunteers If you don't find your answer there, please post your question in the Forums!

To comment or request edits to this page, please contact jjz or John_NZ.

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