Last updated: June 1, 2017

An overview of commonly used proofreading 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.

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: Proofreading mark for insert a period.

Semicolon: Proofreading mark for semicolon.or An alternate proofreading mark for semicolon.

Colon: Proofreading mark for colon. or An alternate 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., A second proofreading mark for insert en dash., or A third proofreading mark for insert en dash.

Insert em dash: Proofreading mark for insert em dash., A second proofreading mark for insert em dash., or A third proofreading mark for insert em dash.

Centered: Proofreading mark for centered., or An alternate proofreading mark for centered.

Parentheses:  Proofreading mark for parentheses.

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 of our proofreading services today for a speedy, easy-to-use document review that makes use of Tracked Changes instead.

Image source: Kay Ransom/


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