I’ve been going through copy edits this week, so I thought I’d do a quick post about that mysterious language of editors: the proofreader’s marks. On first seeing these strange symbols, you might think that a band of drunken elves wandered into your editor’s office, stole a red pen and doodled some abstract art all over your manuscript during the night, but rest assured, each symbol has a specific meaning, and it’s your job to translate that into revisions to your book.
Over the years, I’ve worked with editors who use proofreader’s marks all the time, and I’ve worked with others who use Track Changes in Microsoft Word, but whatever your editor’s preferred method of communicating corrections, it’s a good idea to have a working knowledge of what these marks look like and what they indicate when they show up peppered all over your manuscript.
I use a few different websites as reference for copy editor’s marks, including Merriam-Webster, but there are quite a few sites out there with depictions of each symbol and what it means. Some of the most helpful ones show examples of the marks in a selection of text. Of course, when in doubt about what something means, always ask your editor.