Proofreader's and Editor's Symbols

The following marks are standard proofreading and editing marks.
A professional proofreader puts a mark (usually a line or caret) in the line and writes the correction in the margin. An editor makes corrections within the line rather than in the margin (in part because an editor's changes are typically more extensive), which is why editors prefer to work with double-spaced copy.



Common Proofreading Abbreviations

(The abbreviation would appear in the margin,
probably with a line or arrow pointing to the offending element.)





a faulty abbreviation

She had earned a Phd along with her M.D.

See also P/A and S/V

agreement problem:
subject/verb or

The piano as well as the guitar need tuning.
The student lost their book.


awkward expression
or construction

The storm had the effect of causing
millions of dollars in damage.


faulty capitalization

We spent the Fall in Southern spain.


comma splice

Raoul tried his best, this time that
wasn't good enough


faulty diction

Due to the fact that we were wondering
as to whether it would rain, we stayed home.


dangling construction

Working harder than ever, this job
proved to be too much for him to handle.

- ed

problem with
final -ed

Last summer he walk all the way to Birmingham.



Depending on the amount of snow we get this
winter and whether the towns buy new trucks.

| |

problem in parallel form

My income is bigger than my wife.



A student in accounting would be wise to see
their advisor this month.


problem with pronoun

My aunt and my mother have wrecked her car
The committee has lost their chance to change things.
You'll have to do this on one's own time.


unnecessary repetition

The car was blue in color.


run-on sentence

Raoul tried his best this time
that wasn't good enough.


spelling error

This sentence is flaude with two mispellings.

- s

problem with final -s

He wonder what these teacher think of him.


Let it stand

The proofreader uses this Latin term to indicate that proofreading marks calling for a change should be ignored and the text as originally written should be "let stand."


subject/verb agreement

The problem with these cities are leadership.


verb tense problem

He comes into the room, and he pulled his gun.



Seldom have we perused a document so verbose,
so ostentatious in phrasing, so burdened with too many words.


wrong word

What affect did the movie have on Sheila?
She tried to hard to analyze its conclusion.


General tips for proofing

Read it out loud and also silently.

Read it backwards to focus on the spelling of words.

Read it upside down to focus on typology.

Use a spell checker and grammar checker as a first screening, but don't depend on them.

Have others read it.

Read it slowly.

Use a screen (a blank sheet of paper to cover the material not yet proofed).

Point with your finger to read one word at a time.

Don't proof for every type of mistake at once&emdash;do one proof for spelling, another for missing/additional spaces, consistency of word usage, font sizes, etc.

Keep a list of your most common errors (or of the writers you are proofing) and proof for those on separate "trips."

If you are editing within Word, use the "track changes" or "mark changes" function to make your comments apparent to other reviewers (additions and deletions can be set to appear in different colors).

Print it out and read it.

Read down columns in a table, even if you're supposed to read across the table to use the information. Columns may be easier to deal with than rows.

Use editor's flags. Put #s in the document where reviewers need to pay special attention, or next to items that need to be double-checked before the final proof print. Do a final search for all # flags and remove them.

Give a copy of the document to another person and keep a copy yourself. Take turns reading it out loud to each other. While one of you reads, the other one follows along to catch any errors and awkward-sounding phrases. This method also works well when proofing numbers and codes.

First, proof the body of the text. Then go back and proof the headings. Headings are prone to error because copy editors often don't focus on them.

Double check fonts that are unusual (italic, bold, or otherwise different).

Carefully read type in very tiny font.

Be careful that your eyes don't skip from one error to the next obvious error, missing subtle errors in between.

Double check proper names.

Double check little words: "or," "of," "it," and "is" are often interchanged.

Double check boilerplate text, like the company letterhead. Just because it's frequently used doesn't mean it's been carefully checked.

Double check whenever you're sure something is right&emdash;certainty is dangerous.

Closely review page numbers and other footer/header material for accuracy and correct order.

Editing for content

Ask yourself who, what, when, where, why, and how when reading for content. Does the text answer all the questions you think it should?

Highlight the sentences that best answer these questions, just so you can see if the facts flow in logical order.

Do the math, do the math, and then do the math again. Somewhere between the screen and the printer 2+2 often becomes 3.

Make a list of "bugaboo" words and do a search for them before final proof. Include every swear word, words related to product terminology, and other words that pop up on occasion. Then do a "find" for all these words.

Actually do every step in procedures to make sure they are complete, accurate, and in correct order.

Count the number of steps a list promises to make sure they are all there.

Check that figure numbers match their references in the text and are sequential.

Check that illustrations, pictographs, and models are right-side up.

Preparing yourself to proof or edit

Write at the end of the day; edit first thing in the morning. (Usually, getting some sleep in between helps.)

Listen to music or chew gum. Proofing can be boring business and it doesn't require much critical thinking, though it does require extreme focus and concentration. Anything that can relieve your mind of some of the pressure, while allowing you to still keep focused, is a benefit.

Don't use fluorescent lighting when proofing. The flicker rate is actually slower than standard lighting. Your eyes can't pick up inconsistencies as easily under fluorescent lighting.

Spend a half-hour a month reviewing grammar rules.

Read something else between edits. This helps clear your head of what you expect to read and allows you to read what really is on the page.

Make a list of things to watch for&emdash;a kind of "to do" list&emdash;as you edit.

Copyright © 1999, LR Communication Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Common Gramatical Errors

1. all right - All right is always written as two words; it is never written as one word (allright).

2. alot - A lot is always written as two words; never write it as alot.

3. good and well - Good is an adjective; well is an adverb. Examples: Tom has a good idea. Tom runs well.

4. toward and towards - Both words are acceptable in academic writing.

5. affect and effect - Affect is a verb that means to influence; effect is a noun that is a synonym for result.
Examples: Did her unkind words affect you? The effect of her words is unknown.

6. than and then - Than is a conjunction used for comparisons. Then is an adverb.
Examples: He is better in math than I. We studied for an hour; then we went to the movies.

7. It's me - Formal English requires It is I. Avoid using it's me in formal situations.

8. their, there, they're - Their is the possessive form of they; there is usually an adverb (or an expletive);
they're is a contraction of they are.
Examples: There is no reason for their bad behavior. They're studying for an English test.

9. whose and who's - Whose indicates possession; who's is the contraction of who is.
Examples: Whose English book is this? Who's going to the party tonight?

10. Its, it's - Its is a possessive noun; it's is a contraction for it is.
Examples: The cat played with its toy mouse. It's a beautiful day.

Other usefull links to the University of Colorado at Boulder:

About the Guide | Abbreviations and Acronyms | Addresses | Affirmative Action Statements | Capitalization | Copyright | CU Names | Dates | Dictionaries | Inclusive Writing | Letter Format | Lists | Names and Titles | Numbers | Proofreader's and Editor's Symbols | Punctuation | Reference Sources | Tricky Grammar and Language Use | University and Campus Descriptions | Word List | World Wide Web Style | Writing with Computers