Sections 2.116–29 in the Spotlight

section-2-1162.116–29 Proofreading Marks

Readers might well wonder what use people have today for handwritten proofreading marks, but in publishing, the marks are still widely used. Although writers and editors checking typeset pages sometimes use PDF markup tools, there are plenty of times when it’s faster and easier to mark with a pencil.

An informal poll on Twitter suggested that many young editors are not learning the marks. So here’s an introduction for newcomers and a refresher for old hands.

First, the marks (fig. 2.6 from The Chicago Manual of Style):


The best way to learn the marks is to study the page of corrections below (fig. 2.7 from CMOS). Some tips:

  • Only lines and symbols may be written between the lines; words must be written in the margins.
  • The slash mark (/) is used in the margin only to separate multiple edits. It is never used in front of a lone edit or insertion.
  • Carets (˄) that appear in the margin must have punctuation in them (such as a comma or quotation mark). Empty carets never appear in the margin; they are used as locators within the lines.
  • Insertions of superscripts, quotation marks, and apostrophes take an inverted caret (˅).
  • “To close up” means to eliminate all space between. Use the plain “delete” mark, not the “delete and close up” mark, unless you want the remaining words or punctuation to be joined.
  • The insertion of a new word (or letters) in place of a struck-through word (or letters) is a single edit: a substitution. (That is, it is not marked as two edits: a deletion plus an insertion.) No delete mark is used. Simply strike through the old word (or letters) and write the new word (or letters) in the margin. (Illustrated twice below in line 11, in the change of works to words and illusive to elusive.)




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One thought on “Sections 2.116–29 in the Spotlight

  1. I love using proofreading marks and have been surprised when other editors aren’t familiar with them. Admittedly, I have gotten a bit lax with some marks. I guess saying I’ve individualized them defeats the purpose.

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