The Correct Way to Correct

Why is the Design Guy bringing up proofreading marks? Because it’s a way to quickly and accurately mark up layouts with changes, and when you use universal symbols, you avoid unnecessary confusion.

Back in the day when I was attending Parsons, we had a class with a short, buttoned-up gentleman who wore a suit. I wish I could remember his name, but his persona made more of an impression than his name. Plus, I’m terrible at remembering names.

He taught us how to create mechanicals:

  • How long a crop mark is supposed to be (half an inch).
  • How far away from the page (1/8 inch, 1/4 inch if it had to bleed).
  • Registration and bleed marks placement and much more.

Information that today’s young creatives don’t know. All they need to do is check a box that says add all marks.

He also taught us how to mark up type manuscripts for a typesetter and how to edit copy and layout using the correct marks — proofreading marks. And, he tested us on these marks. That’s what I’m going to talk about today: proofreading marks. Using these marks makes editing faster and clearer for all involved.

Proofreading Symbols
Downloadable 4-page Copy Editing and Proofreading Symbols PDF

So why is a creative guy bringing this up? Because it’s a way to quickly and accurately mark up layouts with changes. Many times we’ve gotten revisions from clients that were not clear and confusing. Using proper proofreading symbols is a way to clear up many of the changes. They are universal and all should know and use them.

At Least Know the First Dozen

I know, I know … four pages of these marks. OMG. I’m not looking for people to become professional proofreaders. That takes a certain personality that I’m sure most of us are not. But, at least learn the first dozen. These are used all the time.

Test Yourself

Want to lean these marks in a fun way? The site Quizlet.com has fun pages that will help teach and test you. Take the Scatter test and see how fast you can go. Yup, it’s timed. See if you can beat your colleagues.

Because I learned these back in the day when we had to do everything by hand, they are pretty ingrained. No matter whether you’re a Millennial, Gen X or Baby Boomer, proofreading marks are a must know.

Last Line of Marked Up Text

Author: Patrick Fultz

Patrick Fultz is the President/CCO of DM Creative Group, a creative marketing firm producing work across all media. He’s an art-side creative, marketing strategist, designer and lover of all things type. His credentials include a degree from Parsons School of Design with 15 years of teaching at his alma mater, over 40 industry creative awards, and he previously served as President of the John Caples International Awards. Always an innovator, Fultz was credited with creating the first 4-color variable data direct mail piece ever produced. He continues to look for innovative ways to tap the powerful synergy of direct mail, the web, digital and social media.

2 thoughts on “The Correct Way to Correct”

  1. Not sure about the current curriculum, but I remember learning all of these in the forth grade and using them all throughout school. After getting to college, however, we didn’t use the standard marks in english, journalism or any of my communication courses. It could have been my school district holding onto its roots, because when I did edit papers for my peers the way I had been taught, they had no idea what I was doing!

  2. I haven’t seen anyone talk about using proofreading symbols since…my college days at Roosevelt University. Most of the PR core was journalism courses, and you had to learn this. I’ve forgotten most of it, but seeing them here roused the brain.

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