Proofreading Marks and What They Mean | Editor World

Proofreading Marks & What They Mean

There are instances when your work may be subjected to proofreading through pen and paper. Perhaps a professor of yours prefers to check printed material personally, or you could be feeling the ill effects of screen fatigue and would rather have a print copy reviewed so you don’t miss any corrections.

Whatever the reason may be, the proofreading marks you see on your work will only make sense if you understand what those little squiggly lines mean. While some proofreading marks are self-explanatory, there are some that you’ll need to decipher.

Below is some helpful information about proofreading as well as a list of proofreading marks and what they mean.

The Basics of Proofreading

The proofreading process is considered the final stage of editing. It involves checking the proof or trial page after all editing revisions have been done.

Proofreading focuses on identifying surface errors, including mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, and even issues with the layout and formatting.

Proofreaders typically place corrections or proofreading marks (usually in red ink) along the margins.

A conventional way of proofreading involves putting corrections concerning the first half of a sentence on the left-hand side. In contrast, corrections regarding the second half of the sentence are placed on the right-hand margin. However, you may find that not all proofreaders follow this practice, although it’s pretty standard.

Common Proofreading Marks

There are many kinds of proofreading marks, and for the sake of organization, they are usually classified in the following ways:


Punctuation Marks

Most punctuation marks are easy to identify, as they include an up or down arrow symbol (⌃ or ⌄).

These marks indicate the need to insert certain punctuation marks, such as:

  • Apostrophes
  • Commas
  • Dashes
  • Dialogue tags
  • Punctuations to end sentences (i.e., periods, question marks, exclamation points)

The exceptions to the usual practice of using arrow symbols are the ones that indicate inserting an em dash, an en dash, and a period.

Operational Marks

When a proofreader wants to indicate that something in the copy needs to be changed, they use operational marks. These typically concern:

  • A missing word/s
  • Deletion
  • Spacing
  • The need to start a new paragraph

Among the most common and self-explanatory marks are the ones that indicate deletion and the need to start a new paragraph. However, you might need some extra help with the other proofreading marks.

Note that the symbol for delete indicates the removal of whatever word or words are marked.

"Delete and close up" refers to removing a letter in a word and closing up the remaining letters. For example, if you mistakenly spell the word "harass" as "harrass," the proofreader would use the delete and close-up mark to correct it.

The symbol for "transpose" simply means you need to change the order or sequence of the words.

Typography Marks and Proofreading Abbreviations

When there are issues related to the copy or text, proofreaders use typography marks. These are used to indicate proper case (upper, lower, etc.) or capitalization, text format (italics, bold, etc.), and so on.

Proofreaders also use simple abbreviations to tell you that some proof corrections are to be done.

Sometimes, a proofreader would do more than one round of proofreading on the same document and may decide during the last round that the text they marked earlier would be fine to stand as is.

The Value of Proofreading

Proofreading is an essential aspect of the editing process that helps ensure you have a polished and error-free document. Whether you want to have your work proofread in print or online, it’s a crucial step you’ll never want to skip.

For professional editing and proofreading assistance, please contact  Editor World.