about editing and those confusing proofreader’s marks

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

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!

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.”


If you’re a blogger who doesn’t proof­read his own work, be­lieve me when I tell you that you’re a blogger who’s losing readers.


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.


StrunkAndWhite Elements 800

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 %#[email protected]!#%&!

Are they %#[email protected]!#%&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.)


Gutenberg sepia 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page de­picts Guten­berg ap­par­ently of­fering a client a sample page of the work that his movable-type ma­chine could produce.


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