Proofreaders' proofreading marks are a combination of symbols and short notations used to mark up both draft documents and typeset pages. Markup may occur at two different stages:
- when copyediting material (editors' marks) before typesetting
- when proofreading typeset materials (proofreaders' marks).
The symbols are virtually identical but may be used slightly differently depending on the material.
Why to Use Proofreading Marks
Just because most of your work is done on the computer doesn't mean marking up a hard copy is obsolete. There are some types of errors that only become obvious when seen in print. Don't rely solely on what you see on-screen.
Proofreaders' proofreading marks provide consistency and help to avoid miscommunication. Whether sharing work with others or proofing your own work, proper use of proofreaders' marks saves time and frustration.
- "Whether you are communicating with your own reader or with the client, standard proof symbols offer a graphic system adapted to saying much in small spaces, with precise, determinable meanings and relatively little ambiguity in use. I suggest they are indispensable." Max Field
- "When you edit your own work, use them. If you just make chicken scratches all over your copy, then go back to it a day or two later, you'll find yourself saying 'what did I mean when I wrote that?' If you ever find yourself working with a copywriter, your copywriter will use them, and you had better understand what they intend for you to do to change the copy." Valerie Martin Stuart
How to Use Proofreaders' Proofreading Marks
There's no need to memorize every one of the dozens of symbols used in proofreading. You'll become familiar with the most frequently used symbols quickly enough. Keep a chart handy for everything else.(See the sidebar for several different charts of proofreaders' marks.)
- At the copyediting stage text is often double-spaced, leaving plenty of room for inserting editors' marks and notations within the text. At this stage most markup will indicate additions and deletions due to grammar, spelling, and style.
- In single-spaced or typeset material use carets, circles and other simple marks in the text to indicate a problem. Place proofreaders' marks and notations in the margin adjacent to each line of marked up text to indicate what to do. Markup at this stage indicates typesetting errors such as transposed characters, incorrect fonts, improper indentation or text spacing, widows and orphans, or missing design elements.
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