Decoding Traditional Proofreading Marks

An overview of commonly used proofreading symbols

A proofreader marks up a document by hand. Proofreading marks are visible.
Having trouble figuring out traditional
proofreading marks? Here's a quick list of
the most commonly used symbols.

If you've ever had a hard copy of a document proofread, chances are that you're familiar with the strange typology of professional proofreaders. Your returned document is so full of symbols (hieroglyphics? squiggles? cuneiform script?!) that you think it has been translated into Martian! These strange markings are the "footprint" that your proofreader has left on the document to highlight where changes need to be made to the text. The proofreader uses a series of symbols and abbreviations to suggest changes, correct spelling errors, improve punctuation, and generally enhance the quality and readability of a hard copy document.

Thank goodness for computers…

A hard copy—as its name suggests—is a physical copy of a document. Before the advent of computers, proofreading marks were the best way to highlight the necessary changes in physical manuscripts. While proofreading marks are still used by some publishers, here at Scribendi.com, we make the proofreading process easier by making our changes directly to your file whenever possible. For example, if you submit a Microsoft Word file to us, we use the Track Changes function to make our revisions directly to your file; this function highlights our changes in red and gives you the ability to accept or reject them individually. You can also track changes in Excel.

Locating proofreading marks

In hard copy proofreading, corrections typically appear in the left or right margins beside the line containing the error. A mark is also placed in the text to indicate where the correction needs to be made. A caret (^) indicates an addition, and a line through the text indicates a deletion or a replacement. Proofreading marks are traditionally written in red ink for better visibility.

Frequently used proofreading marks

Delete: Proofreading mark for "delete."Proofreading mark for "delete.", or Proofreading mark for "delete."

Delete a letter: a diagonal line through the letter with the delete mark in the margin

Delete a word: a straight line through the word with the delete mark in the margin

Transpose: Proofreading mark for "transpose."

Space needed: Proofreading mark for "space needed."

Close up a space: Proofreading mark for "close up a space."

Delete letters and close up a word: Proofreading mark for "delete letters and close up a word."

New paragraph: Proofreading mark for "new paragraph."

Period or full stop:

Semicolon: Proofreading mark for "semicolon."or Proofreading mark for "semicolon."

Colon: Proofreading mark for "colon." or Proofreading mark for "colon."

Insert or superscript: Proofreading mark for "insert" or "superscript."

Insert or subscript: Proofreading mark for "insert" or "subscript."

Insert comma: Proofreading mark for "insert comma."

Insert apostrophe or single quotation mark: Proofreading mark for "insert apostrophe" or "insert single quotation mark."

Insert double quotation marks: Proofreading mark for "insert double quotation marks."

Insert en dash: Proofreading mark for "insert en dash.", Proofreading mark for "insert en dash.", or Proofreading mark for "insert en dash."

Insert em dash: Proofreading mark for "insert em dash.", Proofreading mark for "insert em dash.", or Proofreading mark for "insert em dash."

Centered: Proofreading mark for "centered.", or Proofreading mark for "centered."

Parenthesis:  Proofreading mark for "parenthesis."

Frequently used abbreviations

Let it stand: Proofreading mark for "let it stand."

Spelling: Proofreading mark for "spelling."

Capitals: Proofreading mark for "capitals."

Lowercase: Proofreading mark for "lowercase."

Italics: Proofreading mark for "italics."

Roman typeface: Proofreading mark for "Roman typeface."

Bold typeface: Proofreading mark for "bold typeface."

Faulty diction: DICT

Awkwardly expressed or constructed: AWK

Wordy, too verbose: WDY

Wrong word used (e.g. to/too): WW

Eliminate the need for proofreading marks

Deciphering a proofreader's suggested changes used to take hours; fortunately, it doesn't have to any more. Submit your document to any number of our proofreading services today for a speedy, easy to use document review.

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