My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tips for Using Proofreaders' Marks

Tips from Publishing: Plain and Simple by Debra Hart May, with my own commentary:
  • "While standardized marks are certainly a help, marking changes effectively requires good common sense. Never squeeze too much information into a small space! Your marks are useless if the author can't read them."
    • It is essential to have the appropriate amount of white space available. For drafts, it is okay to have extra-wide margins and greater line spacing, because this will allow the editor to do their job. The point of making the marks is to have them be readable, so make sure you have enough space to work.
  • "Cursive writing is fine so long as others can read it...However, some letters, especially when used singly, are easier to read one way or the other. Use the easier-to-read version; print i's, m's, and n's, for instance, but use cursive for l's and r's."
    • If you write like a doctor, find a way to write so that the reader can understand you. If you have meticulous handwriting, by all means, use it. The point in editing is not to show off your proofreading prowess; it is to help the author improve their work. Keep this in mind as you write so that your comments and corrections are clear.
  • "Use the simplest marking you can to correct the error. For instance, if several letters are missing from a long word, don't simply insert each letter, replace the entire word."
    • Basically, follow the age-old rule of "less is more." If you can use one marking to correct an error instead of five, do it. The less ink you splatter on the page unnecessarily, the easier it will be for the author to understand and follow your corrections. If you have to write a longer explanation, use the margins.
  • "Marginal notes are always an option. Circle marginal notes that are instructional or explanatory to distinguish them from actual changes."
    • Marginal notes should be used to make larger corrections, leave comments, or ask a question. Circling helps draw attention to them and will help your author focus more on the bigger problems after they have fixed the smaller errors.
  • "Don't waste time repeatedly correcting errors that a computer's global search and replace feature can do instead. If you won't be making the actual corrections, note global changes at the top of the document."
    • If you are proofreading a virtual copy of a document and sending it back to the author to make corrections, don't use the global search and replace feature, because the author may not realize that you have changed something. Make a note of what needs done and move on. If you are doing the editing, however, use the search and replace function to save yourself time and effort. Be careful to review the context of each word, because sometimes you might accidentally create more work for yourself by replacing something in error.
  • "Don't play mind-reader; if you're not sure about what the author intended, query the author. Usually this is done with a circled marginal note."
    • If an author put a date and a day together that don't match, make a note of it instead of guessing. If you only have two options for what the author meant, consider leaving a suggestion for what should be done in either case to avoid having to come back to it again.

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