Contents Back Appendix
1: Editing Levels
Use a red pencil to mark changes in format, egregious editorial mistakes (spelling errors, decidedly
incorrect usage), and changes from the copyedited manuscript. If you wish to change (or edit) the language, query
the change on a Post-It note rather than marking it in red. Please review the red folder's contents, if one is
sent with the job, for the history of the project and to find the sample pages and style sheet. Also note whether
you should proof the art and what round of art is in the pages. This information should be included on the proofreading
transmittal form that the DE, ME, or AE has filled out. Use the checklist that is included to guide you in your
work. You'll find the house policy for word and hyphen "stacks" on it.
will not have checked yet for balanced pages and bad breaks at the first-pages stage; please
note them anyhow. Note: Don't worry about balanced pages, but do check for bad breaks.
How Much Authority Does a Proofreader Have?
Proofreaders must do one of three things to every error or problem they find: ignore it, mark it, or query it.
We at HK give you the proofer a fair amount of latitude in the changes and queries that you make. In other words,
unless the DE, ME, or AE specifically asks you to treat a project differently, we ask that you mark or query all
glaring and most moderate errors you come across. You are always required to mark the following:
- Deviations from specifications, sample pages, appropriate typographic standards (such as page and column breaks),
and dead copy
- Incorrect word division
- Dropped copy
In most cases, we also ask that you mark glaring errors in language--the kind that would be noticed by anyone with
a high school education who was good in English and that would embarrass the author or confuse the reader.
Please also tactfully query moderate errors in language--those instantly conspicuous to the trained eye--and
possible errors in fact. But when it comes to querying, it's important to restrain your editing instincts. Don't
get into the habit of rewriting the author's work. (Rewriting is defined as crossing out or querying a whole sentence
and writing a whole new one.) Generally speaking, if a sentence is clear enough for you to know how to rewrite
it, leave it alone. But if it is very confusing or unintelligible, please query it. Also be cautious of querying
unless you can back up the query with a rule from CMS, this style guide, or another style that has been used for
the project. Remember that the skill of a proofreader is measured as much by what they judiciously ignore as by
what they mark.
Proofing With Little Attention to Dead Copy
More and more publishers are adopting the practice of noncomparison proofreading. In most cases, HK does this
as well. We supply both dead and live copy, but in most cases only the live copy is read word for word. The dead
copy is only checked against the live copy paragraph for paragraph to make sure that no copy is dropped. It is
also available when you find something puzzling or need to check figures or the spelling of people's names, for
After you have made the requisite number of passes through the pages, review your work. This should only take
about one-tenth as long as the full proofreading took.
- Review your marks and queries for appropriateness, clarity, and correct placement.
- Reread any line in which you marked an error as well as two or three lines before and after the marked error,
looking for other errors. Errors often occur in groups, and it's not unusual for a proofer to catch one and overlook
- Read the first and the last line of each page to be sure that each reads into the next.
- Review all headings, including running heads.
- Reread the first page or two of the page proofs. Then read the first paragraph a third time. Proofreaders tend
to miss errors at the beginning of jobs.
- Check the ends of lines for wrong word divisions you might have missed.
Summary of Errors and Problems to Mark, Query, or Ignore
The following list summarizes many of the problems that our proofreaders need to look for. If you can catch
everything on this list and decide correctly whether to mark, query, or ignore it, you'll be successful at proofing
Here are some examples of what to mark, query, or ignore. Please note that these are only suggestions.
- Mechanical faults--misaligned characters, broken or dirty characters, rivers or lakes,
smudges, dots, uneven ink marks, and so on: Mark glaring errors (conspicuous to
an untrained eye) and query moderate ones (instantly conspicuous to trained eye). Proofreaders'
pages are often photocopies, so it's not uncommon for stray scratches and smudges to appear on those copies. But
if anything looks very unusual, query it.
- Spacing errors--bad appearance or inconsistencies in analogous items where there are no specs for indentation,
justification, line spacing, type, page and column width and depth, word spacing, letter spacing, balance of facing
pages, or equal space around displayed matter on facing pages: Mark both glaring and moderate errors.
- Positioning faults--knotholes (unsightly blocks of stacked characters), failure to clear for 10 (e.g.,
aligning the number 1 with the zero in 10), faults in horizontal or vertical alignment, in position of folios,
in running heads, and in any displayed matter: Mark glaring errors and query moderate ones.
- Word division errors--including stacked hyphens (more than three consecutive end-of-line hyphens and
no more than two occurrences or three consecutive hyphens on a single page) or incorrectly broken words: Mark all
- Widows and orphans at page or column top or bottom
- A heading at page bottom has fewer than two lines of text following it: Mark.
- The last line of a paragraph starts a page or column: Mark.
- The first line of a paragraph ends a page or column: Mark.
- Widows at paragraph bottom
- The last line of paragraph on a single page is the end of a divided word or a broken compound expression: Ignore.
- The last line of paragraph is fewer than four characters, including punctuation: Mark.
- The last line of paragraph is any single word: Ignore unless fewer than four characters.
- Other bad breaks--head is not broken for sense (see appendix 8 for
guidelines), a recto page ends with a hyphen, text starts with a dash or ellipsis, a short page does not have at
least five lines: Mark all errors.
- Type style errors--bad appearance or inconsistencies in analogous items within text, heads, running
heads, folios, and so on where there are no specs or sample pages for typeface, type size, caps, capitalization
style, italics, and so on: Mark all errors.
- Poor graphics--errors in final art, cropping of photos, misaligned tables, and so on: Mark all errors.
- Nonstandard grammar usage: Query all errors.
- Punctuation errors and inconsistencies: Mark glaring errors and query moderate ones.
- Editorial style discrepancies--inconsistencies in analogous items where there are no specs for compound
words, capitalization, number style, use of italics, and so on: Mark glaring errors (different styles for the same
item within several lines of each other or on the same page) and query moderate ones (different styles within the
same set of pages).
- Poor exposition
- Material that makes no sense, obvious omissions and discrepancies, apparently incorrect or incomplete sentences:
- Somewhat confusing sections: Query.
- Awkward or needlessly repetitious sections; peculiarities of language: Query.
- Errors in alphabetical or numerical sequence--folios, footnotes, illustrations, tables, lists, bibliographies,
and so on: Mark all errors.
- Faulty references--referenced matter (footnotes, illustrations, tables, and so on) that doesn't follow
its first reference, doesn't correspond to its description, or doesn't match a reference list or bibliography (as
in dates or spelling of names): Mark all errors.
- Missing material--pages, illustrations, graphics, and so on: Mark all errors.
- Faulty headings--inappropriate or incorrect headings, running heads, titles, captions, and so on: Mark
- Incorrect arithmetic--in display equations, figures, tables, and so on: Mark all errors.
- Errors in equations and formulas--incorrect breaks, wrong symbols, and so on: Mark all errors.
- Problems in tables, charts, graphs, and other such figures--inconsistencies in analogous items where
there are no specs for style or format (spacing, punctuation, abbreviations, capitalization, notation for unavailable
data, and so on) and typographical faults (broken or crooked rules, misalignments, transpositions, and so on):
Mark glaring errors and query moderate ones.
- Errors in front matter listings--table of contents doesn't match chapter, section headings, or page
numbers; list of illustrations doesn't match illustration or page numbers: Mark all errors.
- Blanks in text--items to be inserted, such as page number references: Mark all errors.
Tricks of the Trade for Proofreaders
Here are a few suggestions to help you successfully get through any proofing job without going blind or insane.
Follow Proven Procedures
- Read one word at a time--the opposite of speed reading. Read unfamiliar words letter by letter.
- Maintain a good, steady pace.
- Read aloud to yourself, especially when material is difficult.
- Do different tasks separately. For example, after you've gone through the entire text, look for end-of-line
errors; next check for widows and orphans; then check alphabetical or numerical sequences--folios, lists, callouts,
figures, and tables. Combine tasks only when you're sure of your skill.
- Take a five-minute break every hour and spend some time looking into the distance to give your eyes some rest.
Never read for more than three hours straight without at least a 15-minute break.
Take Extra Precautions
- Take nothing for granted. Read everything, even recurring material that's become so familiar you're tempted
to accept it unread. Don't just mark "wf" on passages set in the wrong font; read the passages to spot
typos that would otherwise remain when the font is changed.
- Watch for errors in prominent places--where pages, paragraphs, and sections begin; where lines and pages break;
and where type size or typeface changes (as in heads).
- Watch for errors where other errors occur. Typos often come in groups.
- Watch for errors where they would be particularly embarrassing, such as in copy about quality or advice on
how to avoid errors.
- Watch for spacing errors and misalignments.
- When proofing columnar material--tables, table of contents, and so on--read first to find format problems or
dropped punctuation and then read for content.
- Whether a word, line, or paragraph check is called for, always make sure that no copy has been dropped from
the dead copy.
- If you become fascinated with the content, reread the manuscript to make sure that you didn't miss any errors
because of your interest in the content.
- Never put anything that could spill on the surface with the copy you are proofing.
Use Several Tools
- Reserve a place to proofread where you can focus your attention on the job at hand.
- Keep your place with a straightedge or pica stick.
- When you're interrupted, use a pencil mark or a Post-It to mark the place where you stopped.
- Check alignment or centering with a pica stick or pica sheet.
Check centering by folding the paper in half, and hold it to the light to see
if the type's left and right edges align. Or measure the width of each margin with the tip of a pencil and your
thumbnail against the pencil's body. Note: This isn't necessary because
most often the text isn't centered.
- Use a calculator to verify simple arithmetic and conversions.
- Flag places you want to go back to (for example, when you plan to write all queries in one step) with a small
checkmark in the margin and a paper clip or Post-It on the page. Or write down the page, paragraph, and line numbers
on a separate sheet of paper.
- If no style is specified, keep notes concerning capitalization, compounds, number style, and so on.
- Note consistent deviations from the sample pages or glaring inconsistencies that span the entire project and
provide a global query.
- Keep a list of words often misspelled or found as misprints. Look at them twice when you find them in text.
Here's a start: cavalry, calvary; conservation, conversation; from, form; it is, is it; is, in, if, it; or, on,
of; simulation, stimulation; than, that, then.
Contents Back Appendix
1: Editing Levels