How much does it cost to proofread my PhD thesis?

This is a very fair question to ask, and I completely understand why, as a potential customer, you would like to get this answered before you send me your thesis. I mean, maybe you haven't finished writing it yet and are trying to line up a proofreader for when you do and you want to find someone that is good value for money and get them booked in early.

So, how much is it going to cost? A ball-park figure? It is a perfectly fair question, so let's have a look at how I calculate what to charge for a particular project.

Looking back at the infographic I made for my last blog, you can see that if the author is writing in a second language – or even if they are native – then from time to time I may not be able to tell what the author is trying to say.

In these cases, we enter an iterative cycle of querying between proofreader and author, amending the document each time. This takes time, and for a freelancer, time is money.

In the cases where I think I can work out what the author is trying to say, I re-write a sentence and make a comment to flag that I have re-written a sentence or paragraph so that the author can check that I haven't changed the originally intended meaning. This takes time, and time is money.

Generally speaking, the more instances of uncertainty of the meaning of the original document, the more time it will take to proofread and the higher the charge will be per 1,000 words.

Conversely, if the thesis or article is excellently written and only needs a light-touch proofread, then the charge will be low on a per 1,000-word basis.

OK, so the cost varies according to the quality of the language in the original, I guess that is not revolutionary, but how much is the cost?

Well, I aim for an hourly wage in line with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders' (SfEP) suggested minimum rates of pay. They suggest a higher hourly wage for editing than for proofreading; this is not something that I agree with, as I personally find it easier to re-write something than to make slight amendments to something that is already excellent so I aim for the same hourly rate, regardless of the quality of the original work.

I don't like to penalise authors who are writing in a second language – I have massive respect for people who can achieve this, and if anything, I particularly enjoy working with non-native authors as I can more clearly see the value of my input and get more satisfaction by clarifying meaning and helping the author to get the best from their work.

Back to the money!

The following equation is how I calculate the price to charge on a per 1,000-word basis:

A calculation of the cost of proofreading a PhD thesis, journal article, academic paper or Masters dissertation

To do this, I need to see a sample because I need to know roughly how long it will take me to complete a typical 1,000-word section of the document. Once I know this, I set a charge per 1,000 words that approaches the minimum rate of pay recommended by the SfEP.

Now that the process is defined, what do the numbers come out at? Well, it is somewhere between £5 and £25 per 1,000 words, typically.