Editing Marks: Real and Imagined

This month’s topic is editing. So to start off we will review the standard editing/proofreading marks as well as a few not-so-standard/humorous.

So what is the difference between editing and proofreading? Content editing is going beyond the basic reading for technical errors. It gets into the muscled of the piece… beyond just the bones. Line editing and proofreading are reading through for technical errors — misspellings, punctuation, and basic sentence structure.

Now my definitions are from my personal perspective. I’m sure there are hundreds of slightly different definition depending on who you talk to.

Defining Standard Editing Marks

The standard editing marks are a form of shorthand used when reviewing hard copy manuscripts. As technology progresses, this form of editing is becoming less frequently used. Computer programs, specifically Microsoft Word, allows the editor to highlight a word or phrase and then make comments in the margin. And editors are adopting this method over dealing with hardcopy.

So why even learn them? To make notations when you are editing your own work. It makes it so much easier and saves time. Consistent marks mean that, when you go back to rewrite, you are not scratching your head and saying, “Huh?”

Study them. Print them out and post them on your notebook and above your desk. Get used to using them. Sometimes the old ways work just fine. In fact, printing out the manuscript and getting out your red, green, fuchsia pen is tactile and organic.

Understanding Less Common Editing Marks

I have two more graphics of some of the lesser known editing marks. They are not ‘official’ marks but some should be. Every editor can use their personal experience and add to the list. They also have their stories, good and bad.

My first experience with an editor went well, but my second was a disaster. The man knew nothing about editing romantic suspense. He also had an “I’m a ‘real’ editor and you must do everything I tell you’ attitude. No, thank you. I like suggestions but it is up to me to determine which ones to act on.

Now what I DO need is a line editor to make sure my punctuation, spelling, and grammar are correct. A writer can use the spell checker and grammar checker on Word and still miss items. Sites like ProWritingAid.com are great for running your text through and getting feedback but I ultimately prefer the human eye.

Now that you understand the difference between editing and proofreading, please share your favorite editing tools and editors in the comments.

Columnist/Illustrator at Our Write Side/OWS Ink, LLC

Nancy Miller lives out in the Illinois countryside near St. Louis, Missouri.She shares her home with her husband of 31 years and three exceptionally spoiled dogs.After losing her house to fire in November 2013, not much was left but they did find a slightly melted USB drive with all her writing backups.She took this a sign she should get back to work.She is the author of Crystal Unicorns, a romantic suspense novel available in paperback and ebook on Amazon. Her current book, Shark Bait, is in final edits.


Originally published at ourwriteside.com on March 6, 2017.

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