about editing and those confusing proofreader’s marks

ASIDE FROM MY OWN WORK, I have edited several books and many articles for others. I have no formal training in, merely study about editing. I never used the field’s accepted nomenclature or proof-reading symbols. I just used my Strunk & White and everything worked out hunky-dory for those writers!

If you’re blogger who doesn’t proof his own work, believe me you’re losing readers.

Wikipedia defines editing as “the process of selecting and preparing [articles or books] used to convey information. The editing process can involve correction, organization,
and many other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete work.”

Wiki defines proofreading as “the reading of a galley proof or an electronic copy of a publication to detect and correct production errors of text or art. Proofreaders are expected to be consistently accurate by default because they occupy the last stage of typographic production before publication.”

The two jobs overlap: editors may find proofreading as part of their job requirements; people hired as proofreaders may find themselves acting as a default (underpaid) editor. Of course, that’s the way the publishing trade was run for generations, but things change.


Each article that I publish on this site that address grammar or punctuation is tied in somehow with the Strunk and White book The Elements Of Style.

Guides for proofreading marks

Knowing proofer’s symbols is not necessary to proofread and correct a text—unless you intend to make a career in publishing books, magazines, or newspapers. Still, if you are a writer or a blogger, it’s good to know them, although you won’t have to memorize them.

For those readers wanting easy access to proofreading symbols (or marks), there are many sites on the Internet providing tons of information. Here are two sources for the most common proofreading symbols used in editing by both magazine and book publishers:

51 proofreading marks

The site 51 Proofreading Marks from the In Other Word Agency. The fifty-one marks with their meaning are listed in three columns, hand-drawn on a pale yellow background. As they are in three columns, they fit on one page which requires almost no scrolling. 1

This chart is very easy to use and features twelve more symbols that are not found on the Copy Editing and Proofreading Symbols chart below.

Here we’re deleting “the” and closing the gap between the “g” and the “a” in the word “gap. For proofing, I suggest you use a colored ink pen instead working black on black.

Copy editing and proofreading symbols

The site Copy Editing and Proofreading Symbols has thirty-nine symbols with their meanings listed in one column. There are two BIG plusses to this list: 2

1. Each symbol and meaning is followed by an example of the symbol used in a short sentence. That is, you can see how the symbol looks on a printed page.

2. There are actually two lists: the first lists the symbol first followed by the meaning; the second list the meaning first followed by the symbol.

But there is also a big minus to this site: the lists of symbols are followed by Ten Rules of Proofreading, the first of which is “Never proofread your own copy.”

What the %#!@!#%&!

Are they %#!@!#%&ing kidding?!!? 3

Always proofread our own copy, even if you are a professional writer who will have your work proofed by your publisher.

Hell’s Belles, especially if you want to be thought of and treated like a professional writer by your publisher!

And if you’re a blogger, you probably don’t have a choice. 4


My suggestions about editing

A. Turn first to Copy Editing and Proofreading Symbols and learn the symbols there; the examples are a great teaching aid.

B. Then use 51 Proofreading Marks as your go-to site; it’s easier to use and easier on the eyes.

FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page represents a hand-drawn delete mark. I found it on the Jeopardy Labs site, which seems to offer a version of the Jeopardy game.



1   In Other Words has an excellent blog geared towards marketers and directors bit can be enjoyed by writers and readers.

2   The Copy Editing and Proofreading Symbols chart is credited to the mysterious biostatmatt.com.

3   I’m being a good boy and refraining from using the f-word.

4   And if you’re blogger who doesn’t proof his own work, believe me when I tell you that you’re losing readers . . .


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