A great deal of editing and proofreading is done onscreen, but that doesn’t mean that professional editors and proofreaders have stopped using proof-correction marks. The UK has one set of industry-recognised symbols: British Standards Institution (BSI) marks for copy preparation and proof correction. Other regions have their own industry standard symbols or may also use the BSI marks. In case you haven’t seen BSI marks, here are a few in use:
They are basically a type of code used to save time, save space and improve clarity. There is often very little space to mark corrections on proofs, and the corrections have to be understandable to everyone in the publishing process (particularly the typesetter). I find they save a lot of time compared to writing instructions out in full, and this led me to think that they are a resource that some authors might find useful.
BSI marks aren’t any use if you are editing your work in Word or a similar program, but if you like to edit and proofread on hard copy, I think they might be worth dabbling with. Instead of wordy scribbles, you could have concise marks. Proof-correction marks are designed to convey exactly what needs to be done in a simple and clear manner. They don’t take up much space and can comfortably accommodate several changes in close proximity to each other. Pages look much cleaner and less cluttered.
The principal symbols are simple to understand and even easier to put on paper. Marking an insertion or deletion is quick and effortless. It doesn’t take long for it to become second nature. And if you are working on the final layout, there are efficient symbols for moving and adjusting matter. You should no longer forget what it was you were trying to tell yourself to change because the symbols will make it obvious.
For professional editors and proofreaders, it is important to learn how to use the marks to the correct industry standards. For writers marking up their own work, it just matters that you are consistent. If you would like to give BSI marks a go, you can buy a summary sheet from the British Standards Institution or from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (it’s cheaper from the SfEP). You may also find it handy to be familiar with proof-correction marks when working with editors, proofreaders and other publishing professionals.
Do you use proof-correction symbols? Or have you developed your own mark-up system?