For writers

Deciphering proofreading marks

Deciphering proofreading marks

When I started working in the publishing industry over ten years ago, we used proofreading marks on page proofs to tell the compositor or typesetter what changes to make. As the industry moves further into digital and online publishing, and as more of the work is outsourced, hardcopy page proof mark-up is becoming less common.

The power of proofreading marks is they’re recognised across the publishing and printing industries, which means that editors, proofreaders, compositors, typesetters, graphic designers, artists and printers can read them. They quickly and easily convey an instruction in one or two symbols.

Today, I mark up proofs electronically using either commenting tools on a PDF or annotated screenshots of a web page. However, with all our technological advances, I’m yet to find any inbuilt tools in the software programs I use that are as effective as proofreading marks. We in the industry need to find a way to ensure they are incorporated into our electronic proofing practices.

As writers, you may see these marks during the pre-publication proofing stage, or if you enlist the services of an editor before you submit your manuscript to an agent or publisher. You may have seen them in style manuals. I’m decoding some of the most useful ones here to share this area of the publishing industry with you, and to give you a tool that will save you time should you have a need to use them in the future.

insert Insert Place where you want to insert a change
Delete Delete Use to indicate the content you crossed out is to be deleted
space Space Use to show a space is to be inserted at the insert mark
full-stop Full stop Use to show a full stop is to be inserted at the insert mark
comma Comma Use to show a comma is to be inserted at the insert mark
double-quote-marks Double quotation marks Use to show double quotation marks are to be inserted at the insert mark
single-quote-marks Single quotation makrs Use to show single quotation marks are to be inserted at the insert mark
em-dash em dash Use to show an em dash (a line the width of the font’s capital M) is to be inserted at the insert mark
en-dash en dash Use to show an en dash (a line the width of the font’s capital N) is to be inserted at the insert mark
hyphen Hyphen Use to show a hyphen is to be inserted at the insert mark
italics Italics Use to indicate the text you underlined once is to be italicised
lower-case Lower case Use to indicate the letters you put a diagonal line through are to be made lower case
capital Capital Use to indicate the letters you underlined three times are to be made upper case
close-up Close up Use to indicate the space between words is to be removed
roman Roman Use to indicate all formatting is to be removed from the text you circled and the text should look like the body text style
stet Let it stand Use to indicate the text you made corrections to and then placed a dotted line under is to remain as it currently stands
transpose Transpose Use to show the text you indicated is to be swapped
separate Separate Use to separate each proofreading mark when more than one is used in the same area
Author bio
By Lian Flick

The creator and curator of Novel Collective, Lian is inspired by people who imagine without limits, writing that evokes powerful emotion, the colour and stories of other cultures, and timeless style.

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