Proofreading is a quality control check of text and layout that many of us are asked to do with little or no training. Yet marking corrections clearly and unambiguously with no specialized knowledge is not as easy as one might think. For example, how do you indicate that you want the space between words to be closed up?
The text reads: tooth paste
And you want: toothpaste
Do you scratch out both words and write toothpaste in the margin? Do you draw a circle around the area and write a note in the margin saying, "Please remove the space between the words to make one word"? Do you put a delete mark on the space? The answer is hooks: you put a pair of sideways parentheses connecting the two words.
How do I know this? The standard proofreading marks, shown in many dictionaries under P for proofreading, include this and many other useful symbols. The proofreading marks are efficient and unambiguous. They are faster than writing an entire note in the margin, and they have been codified into a little symbol language of their own.
But these symbols have a huge limitation: Many designers, layout artists, and eLearning producers don't know them. That fact leaves us at square one unless we do learn the marks, educate our colleagues about them, use some online tools, or do all three.
I have begun attaching a graphic of the proofreading marks when I return corrections to a designer. Then the designer can look up the marks and interpret them as needed. And handwritten marks are not the only ones that require this treatment. Even when using Acrobat to communicate corrections, I find that I, and many other editors, like to grab the Pencil tool and just make the standard proofreading mark right on the PDF. Acrobat has built-in tools for Text Edits, but not all reviewers know how to use this tool, and not all designers consider Text Edits easy to use. So again, knowledge of the proofreading marks is crucial for clear communication.
Now what of the ladders I spoke of in my title? They are a common design flaw in text: when 3 or more end-of-line hyphens occur on successive lines, they form an eyesore called a ladder. The designer must rebreak the lines to eliminate the stack of hyphens. Knowing that this is considered poor style is something designers know, but many of us editors and writers don't know, even though we are checking a designer's work. Again, I think education is the key. The more both designers and writers/editors know about one another's work, the better quality products we can produce.
I'd love to hear from you if you have experienced a knowledge gap in either direction. Have you marked a correction, and had the mark misunderstood? Have you been on the receiving end of scrawled notes instead of concise correction marks? What have you done about these problems?
Note: Both sides of this knowledge gap are covered in my upcoming Proofreading class..
About the Author: Jennie Ruby is a veteran IconLogic trainer and author with titles such as "Editing with Word 2003 and Acrobat 7" and "Editing with MS Word 2007" to her credit. She is a publishing professional with more than 20 years of experience in writing, editing and desktop publishing.