Proofreading symbols

These are the commonly used proofreading symbols.

The use of almost all proofreading symbols follows the same pattern. There is a mark in the margin, along with specific details about the change that should be made, and a mark in the text showing where those instructions should be implemented.

The full set of proofreading marks is defined by British Standard BS 5261 and further information can be obtained from the BSI

Our experience tells us that the best way to learn the proofreading marks is to use them — that's far better than trying to simply memorise them in the abstract. Proofread a few documents with a copy of the marks at your side and look up the right proofreading symbol each time you need to mark up an error. By the time you've marked up a few documents, you'll have identified those proofreading marks that you're likely to use and will have started to memorise them without having to make a conscious effort.

Remember, when all else fails, you can simply put a circle around the text that needs to be altered and put instructions in the margin detailing what should be done.

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Proofreading symbols for general instructions

The instruction The mark in the margin The mark in the copy
"Stet" Leave the text as it was and ignore any marks that have been made     under the characters to be left as they were.
Remove all these non-textual marks Circle round marks to be removed
Query this with the author, printer or publisher   Circle round text to be queried

Proofreading symbols for inserting, deleting and changing text

The instruction The mark in the margin The mark in the copy
Text to be inserted The text and then
Additional text supplied separately A letter in a diamond identifying the supplied text, e.g.
Delete character through the character
Delete text through the text
Delete character and close space through the character
Delete text and close space through the text
Character to replace marked character The new character through the character
Text to replace marked text The new text through the text

Proofreading symbols for changing the look of the text

The instruction The mark in the margin The mark in the copy
Change to the correct font Circle round character(s) to be changed
Change this badly printed text Circle round character(s) to be changed
Put this in italics under the characters to be changed
Remove italic, replace with upright Circle round character(s) to be changed
Put this in capitals under the characters to be changed
Put this in small capitals under the characters to be changed
Change to lowercase or Circle round character(s) to be changed
Put this in bold under the characters to be changed
Turn this upside down Circle round character(s) to be changed
Raise character(s) to superscript Under character(s) at insertion point or through character to be raised
Lower character(s) to subscript Above character(s) at insertion point or through character to be lowered

Proofreading symbols for punctuation

The instruction The mark in the margin The mark in the copy
Comma at insertion point or through character to be changed
Full stop  As above
Semi-colon  As above
Colon  As above
Apostrophe  As above
Single quote mark(s) or  As above
Double quote marks or  As above
Ellipsis  As above
Dotted leader  As above
Hyphen  As above
Dash Write the size of the dash between the uprights  As above
Solidus or slash  As above

Proofreading symbols for layout

The instruction The mark in the margin The mark in the copy
Paragraph break
Remove paragraph break  
Indent Specify the size of indent  
Remove indent
Justify left or right or   or  
Centre
Insert space between characters If it is not a single space, give size Insert between the characters
Insert space between words If it is not a single space, give size Insert between the words
Reduce space between characters Specify size of space Insert between the characters
Reduce space between words Specify size of space Insert between the words
Remove space
Insert space between lines The mark starts in the margin and extends between the lines. If it is not a single line-space, give size  
Remove space between lines The mark starts in the margin and extends between the lines

For more information about our proofreading courses, please see the Proofreading training page and, for rates and more general information, please visit the "About Us" page.