Proofreading Symbols Every Proofreader Should Know

A set of proofreading symbols

If life hands you melons, hire a proofreader

Proofreading symbols are like a foreign language to most people; they are often considered to be an indecipherable series of squiggles, letters, and symbols that mean absolutely nothing to the regular guy or girl on the street. Unless you know what these proofreading marks actually mean, using them to improve and develop your writing is absolutely impossible.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common proofreading symbols that are in use by professional native English proofreaders and explain why they are important for proofreaders who are looking for a career in editing.

You can read more about what proofreaders do in our guide to the differences between editing and proofreading.

What on Earth are Proofreading Symbols?

Proofreading symbols are the marks that a proofreader makes on a paper when they edit it. They are a coded set of instructions that point out where mistakes have been made and how a piece of writing can be improved. They are aimed at highlighting grammatical and punctuation errors as well as layout, formatting and vocabulary issues on a hard copy document (a physical, printed-out version).  Let’s have a look at these dreaded proofreading symbols.

Read more: 69 hilarious reasons why you need to proofread

Proofreading Symbols Cheat Sheet

If you are interested in learning proofreading symbols, this cheat sheet will be of great use to you.

A set of proofreading symbols


Breathe a Sigh of Relief

We know this: Proofreading is not easy!

If you took one look at the proofreading cheat sheet and felt a cold shiver run down your spine, don’t panic. The good news is that proofreading symbols are no longer as important as they once were. The wide-spread availability of computers means that the majority of proofreaders now highlight the required changes on an electronic copy of the document. In addition to this, instead of merely pointing out that there is an issue, most proofreaders now actually fix the problem and use the track changes tool on the word processor to show the client where the corrections have been made. The client is then free to either accept or reject each change as they see fit. This methodology makes the proofreading process much more efficient and allows the proofreader to provide the client with much more help than making a few squiggles here and there.

If all this is a bit mind-blowing, take a look at this humorous take on lesser-known proofreading marks:

A funny image of lesser known proofreading marks

Vappingo’s Proofreading Services

Unless specifically instructed otherwise, Vappingo’s proofreaders always use the track changes functionality in Microsoft Word. This is much more useful to you than proofreading marks alone because it provides you with practical help with your written English; it both highlights mistakes AND shows you how to remedy them. As one of our customers, you don’t need to spend hours trying to decipher proofreading symbols, you can simply review each change that the proofreader has made in turn, and either reject it or accept it. Simple.

Submit your document for our proofreading services today for a speedy, efficient proofreading service that gives you the help you really need.

Spellchecker Poem: Proofreading Software FAIL

Once again we have come across a great example of why proofreading software cannot be relied upon as a substitute for using professional proofreaders.  This time, it is in the form of the Spellchecker Poem.  Run this little verse through your spell checker and you will find that it doesn’t contain one single mistake, or does it?

Candidate for a Pullet Surprise by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Read moreSpellchecker Poem: Proofreading Software FAIL

The Most Painfully Idiotic Contradictions You Have Ever Seen

Top sign reads 'Do not enter". Sign directly below reads "enter only"

One of the biggest thing our proofreaders keep a beady eye out for when proofreading important documents is contradictions. It’s important that your text does not contain any events characters, plot lines and settings that contradict each other and leave your readers scratching their heads. Here are some great examples of contradictions in action.

Sign reads: "Do not enter. Entrance only."

No pets allowed. All pets must be on a leash.

Read moreThe Most Painfully Idiotic Contradictions You Have Ever Seen

How to Proofread in 5 Easy Steps

Please drive safetyIf you’re wondering how to proofread, this is certainly the article for you.  We’re going to reveal the five basic steps of proofreading and give you hints and tips for making sure that your final written English is error free.

Everyone knows that written English should be free of grammatical and spelling errors, and everyone knows the importance of proofreading.  However, not everyone knows how to proofread and when it comes to the boring task of checking a document for mistakes, many people choose to ditch the proofreading process or engage in a half-hearted attempt to find errors.  

Read moreHow to Proofread in 5 Easy Steps

Proofreading Marks

If life hands you melons, hire a proofreader

Proofreading marks are used by proofreaders and editors to indicate an error in the copy.  The nature of the mark is directly related to the type of error that has been produced, and proofreaders and editors will place the proofreading mark in the line of text where the error takes place.

Depending on the nature of the editing services, the proofreader will then either write a correction in the margin or will write a correction directly above the sentence.

You can read more about what proofreaders do in our guide to the differences between editing and proofreading.

We have a free guide to basic proofreading marks available, and you can download and print the PDF version from our account on Scribd:

Read moreProofreading Marks