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 proofread his own work, believe me when I tell you that you’re a blogger who’s 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.

A few 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:

There are more than fifty proofreader’s marks or symbols, most of them rarely used by normals like you and me. Most dictionaries have a list of proofreader’s marks, including the trusty Merriam-Webster Online.


This nice-looking chart explains fifteen of the most commonly used symbols. It’s taken from The English Emporium website (“An English Handbook for Writers, Students, and Teachers”).

More proofreading marks

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:

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?!!?

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

If you’re a blogger, you probably don’t have a choice. (And if you’re blogger who doesn’t proofread his own work, believe me when I tell you that you’re a blogger who’s losing readers.)

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