Editing Course: Types of Electronic Documents

This is pretty basic and I wasn’t going to include it on the website, but then I realised that not everyone knows what electronic documents are. My mother still can’t understand why digital cameras don’t need a film or how an email can be received within seconds of sending it, especially when the recipient is on the other side of the world.

With this in mind, here’s a very basic list of electronic documents.

Ebooks: Electronic books, viewed on an ereader. This is a fast growing market in electronic publishing.

E-zines: Electronic magazines distributed electronically via email. They may be the size of a newsletter (under 10 pages) or as large as a printed magazine.

E-newsletters: Mostly referred to as e-zines. They are a short electronic publication, usually sharing news on a specific topic. They are distributed via email.

E-documents: Mostly used in the business sector. E-documents are useful as they can be updated regularly and easily. They can be downloaded from websites as a PDF and emailed with ease.

A Few Editing/Proofreading Tips

It is harder to find errors on screen so wherever possible it is better to print the document before attempting to edit/proofread it.

However, printing the document is not always an option. If you must edit/proofread on screen remember the glare of the screen can cause eye strain so take regular breaks to rest your eyes.

Editing Course: Online Webpages

When editing or proofreading webpages online there are a few things to remember. It is more difficult to read screen based documents. And you are not only checking the content. Once you have edited or proofread the site, you will need to type up your report and send it to the client via email.

Elements of a Website

Reporting for a website is slightly different than reporting for a PDF document. You must ensure your client understands which page you are referring to. Here are some website elements and how to report them.

Functionality: Check the content is useful and helpful, and make sure a contact page is provided.

home/index.html: doesn’t mention the product
contacts/site.html: there is no email address

Navigation: Ensure the site is user-friendly, a navigation bar is on all pages and easy to locate and use.

products/style.html: no navigation bar on page
products/postage.html: sub-menu is not clickable

Consistency: Ensure the content is consistent, as well as the layout and placement of graphics.

about us/history.html: irrelevant information
index.html: different logo used to rest of site

Accuracy: Ensure all links work, all headings are correct, all references to the company are spelt correctly, and all banners, menus, etc work.

prices/design.html: page doesn’t load
products/faq.html: para 2, line 4: “there’ sb “their”

Speed: Too many graphics will cause a page to load slowly.

products/design.html: page loads slowly

Appearance: Does the site look professional? Will it appeal to its target audience?

contactus.html: emoticons look unbusiness like
products/design.html: graphics slow loading

Browsers: Check to ensure the website displays correctly in various browsers.

Website does not display properly in IE.

Resolutions: Check the screen resolutions, where possible, as some designs look shabby when viewed with smaller or larger screens.

Website does not display properly when viewed on larger screens.

Maintenance: Are the file names complicated or user-friendly? Is the coding easy to change on pages that need frequent updating?

homepage/index.html: file name too complicated
products/pricing.html: content difficult to update

Some Basics of Online Editing

Successful websites tend to offer “byte-sized” chunks of information rather than long pieces of written material as most visitors skim over the content if there’s too much reading involved.

The layout should be user-friendly, with key elements such as links and headlines easy to find and standing out from the rest of the text.

Websites make use of colour, graphics, bullet points and underlined links but should never be cluttered and cramped as it puts the viewer/reader off.

When proofing a website some proofreaders like to scroll down the page, reading each line as it appears at the bottom of the page. Others prefer to use the cursor, moving it across the page as they check each word. Remember, ALL text must be checked on every page (ie headings, banners, logos, content, links, address bars, etc). It is always wise to write your report as you check each page.

Editing Course: Putting it all Together

So far during the course I’ve learned many things. Some interesting theory about the publishing world and some stuff I already knew but was pleased to do a refresher for. The main thing I’ve learned, however, is the proofreading marks and conventions.

The topics in the current unit are now all practical exercises, putting together all the editing and proofreading marks I’ve learned so far so there’s nothing for me to type about. However, there was a simple list of quick tips I thought would be interesting to share.

Here is the list:

  • Take care with proofreading marks and make sure they are clear.
  • Make the marks short and fat rather than long and skinny. This will save space and give more room for marks on the lines of text above and below the one you’re working on.
  • Start your margin marks further to the left (in both margins) to allow room for other marks on the same line of text.
  • By pressing more lightly on the marking pen, the marks become clearer.
  • Use a ruler, if necessary.
  • Use white out to erase a mark. Even copyeditors and proofreaders make mistakes.


Editing Course: Standard & Comparative Proofreading

Yesterday I completed the second half of the practical exercises in topic 2, which I wrote about on Tuesday. This morning I did two more topics, so now I’m back on track.

Below are the notes from the theory side of the two topics:

3: Standard Proofreading

Standard proofreading uses margin marks (as does comparative proofreading). If there are only a small number of corrections all marks are placed in the right-hand margin. However, if there are a lot of corrections then both the left-hand and right-hand margins are used.

The standard proofreading technique is to imagine a line down the centre of the page. All errors on the left-hand side of that imaginary line would be marked up in the left-hand margin. All errors on the right-hand side would have their marks placed in the right-hand margin. However, never split the marks for a single word between both margins, always keep them together. So if a word in the middle of the page needs two or more corrections, group the mark ups together in one margin (it doesn’t matter which margin is used).

A proofreader always works from left to right and the person correcting the work should look at the mark ups in the same way. In other words, the margin marks will correspond to the text marks when read left to right, despite which margin is used.

4: Comparative Proofreading

Comparative proofreading is usually done when the copy has already been edited by a copyeditor or proofreader and has been returned to the typesetter who will make the changes required. When the live copy comes back it will be checked against the dead copy (original version).

The proofreader does not look for new corrections. The idea of comparative proofreading is to check to make sure all corrected errors have been changed by the proofreader. This is the proof and it is usually done in one of the last stages prior to going to print.

What if an unmarked error is spotted by the proofreader? The proofreader marks it up as usual but must bring the error to the attention of the copyeditor, as the error may be intentional. It will be up to the copyeditor to say if the error is corrected or not.

Most publishers cannot afford to have a document/manuscript proofread two or three times, so errors will be found in the printed work unless extra care is taken in the initial proofread.

Editing Course: Proofreading Marks

Although today’s post is going to be short, the actual topic for today was extremely long. It is so long, in fact, that I’ve had to split it over two days. Yet that isn’t going to show in the notes as the topic is mostly practical exercises as I learn new marks for proofreading (which I will not go into here).

Unit 2, Topic 2: Proofreading Marks

Proofreading marks have been fine-tuned and simplified over the years. They didn’t start out as simple strikes and inserts.

It is important when you are marking up to have legible marks. Indecipherable marks only cause frustration, delays and further errors. Ways to avoid this is to use the separator mark (/) to define corrections and the circle for small punctuation characters.

When making corrections to typeset copy, they must be placed in the right-hand margin. However, if there are too many errors to correct and not enough space in the right-hand margin, then you would place some corrections in the left-hand margin also. The marks placed in the body of the text are called “text marks” and the marks placed in the margin(s) are “margin marks”.

If there are no corrections on an entire page, you need to place a slash (/) at the bottom of the page. This means there are no corrections and the author and/or typesetter know you haven’t missed the page when editing. This applies to stand alone passages on a single page too, i.e. newspaper or magazine articles. If one or all need no corrections you need to place a slash at the end of each article indicating this.

A standard convention in proofreading is to circle the instruction mark you place in the margin. Instruction marks let the typesetter know what you want done. For example, “bold” circled means to change the marked text to bold rather than insert the word “bold”. The exception to the rule is when you want the typesetter to insert a full stop (.), a comma (,), a semi-colon (;) or a colon (:). As these punctuation marks are small, the proofreader circles them to bring them to the typesetter attention.

Editing Course: Editor & Proofreader’s Tools

Becoming an editor and/or proofreader means you must have an excellent understanding of grammar, spelling, punctuation, style, formatting and layout.

Obviously, no one can remember everything connected with these things so it is important to have a good set of tools.

Tools required are:

1. A good localised dictionary (ie it’s no use owning a lovely thick American dictionary if you reside in the UK or Australia).
2. A marking pen (ie standards change from company to company, so be sure you know what colour is used for each position, such as editor, copyeditor, proofreading or publisher).
3. A localised style manual.

The above are the absolute minimum you must have.

Australians might considered subscribing to the Macquarie Dictionery Online. However, there is an annual fee to access the information.

Editing Course: Getting Started in Proofreading

Today’s topic was long! This topic is where the learning really begins. It took a lot longer than usual, but it was more exciting as there were a lot of practical exercises included. I am not going to share the practical exercises. I am only sharing a summary of the theory notes. Some of the notes below are reiterating things already discussed in previous topics, which is good because I don’t take everything in the first time it’s said.

4: Getting Started in Proofreading

“Proofreading” means undertaking the checking and correcting of proofs.

The proofreader reads the original manuscript (written and submitted by the author) and compares it to the proof (typeset by the publisher) to ensure they are exactly the same and contain no errors.

A novel, short story or other printed document riddled with mistakes affects the credibility of the author and the publisher and will result in loss of future sales.

It is critical for a proofreader to have patience and tolerance. However, it is not uncommon to find errors in printed copy. Unfortunately, when a person works on their own manuscripts/documents they can become too close to them. They will see words they expect to see instead of the words that are actually there.

Editors and copyeditors usually mark up with a blue pen. Proofreaders usually use a red pen.

In publishing, a copyeditor marks up text directly on the copy, in between the lines, unless the copy is provided single spaced. In this case, they would place their marks in the margin. A proofreader will always mark up copy by placing corrections in the margin, no matter what line spacing is used.

Remember, a proofreader only checks for errors between the original manuscript and proof copy or the edited copy and proof copy. They never make changes. If two documents are being compared and the proofreader notices inconsistencies in the copy, such as missing punctuation in both the manuscript and the proof, it should NOT be corrected but should be brought to the attention of the editor or author.

It is important that the proofreader reads slowly, looking at each letter of every word along with checking all punctuation.

Proofreader’s Checklist:

  • spelling and punctuation errors, typos and literal errors
  • grammar
  • word breaks and hyphenation
  • orphans and widows
  • paragraph indentation
  • spacing between lines and words
  • preliminary pages
  • page numbering, headers and footers
  • numbering lists
  • heading: chapter headings and sub-headings
  • table of contents and list of illustrations
  • tables, diagrams and figures, and their captions
  • footnotes and references, cross references
  • contacts, addresses and phone numbers
  • endmatter: appendices, bibliography, index, etc.


Editing Course: Editing & Proofreading – What’s the Difference?

The second day of my course was all theory. In an effort to retain the maximum amount of information, I intend to write about the theory topics here. However, I probably won’t write posts for the practical topics, which I notice will start from topic 4 onwards. We’ll see what happens when the time comes.

2: Editing & Proofreading – What’s the Difference?

There are two types of editing:

1. *Substantive Editing for structure and substance.
2. *Copyediting for improvement of grammar, punctuation, factualness and formatting.

There are two types of proofreading:

1. *Proofreading to correct mistakes in text.
2. Comparative Proofreading to compare live copy (corrected text) against dead copy (original text that was marked up).

* The division between these can be quite grey though.


Substantive (or structural) Editing

  • Substantive editing is where there are changes presented to the author by the editor, in the form of suggestions or guidelines. The changes may be to do with character, situation or plot in order to improve or maintain the internal coherence in the story. Substantive editing is different to copyediting in that it is based on the editor’s creative input.
  • A structural editor only works with the author’s draft, and makes suggestions between the double-spaced text or in the margin.
  • The author should do their own substantive editing prior to submitting the manuscript to the editor.
  • There are no defined rules with substantive editing as there are for the copyediting and proofreading aspects. Therefore, to be a substantive editor is to be more highly skilled.
  • A good editor needs to be meticulous, apply commonsense, have determination, be patient and sensitive to the author’s intentions.



  • It is used to improve grammar and punctuation, correct factual errors, and ensure consistency of formatting (including headers, footers, margins, paragraph layouts and table of contents).
  • A copyeditor works with the edited draft of the manuscript (after the structural editor has finished with it).
  • A copyeditor does not usually write in the margins unless there’s no room between the lines of text.
  • In a distinct copyediting role, no substantive editing will be undertaken.
  • A copyeditor will likely correct and improve work based on established rules and guidelines.




  • Proofreading is the reading and correction of mistakes in a proof document (usually after it has been edited and copyedited).
  • Often clients confuse “proofreading” with an edit and proofread, so it is essential for the proofreader to know exactly what the client wants.
  • A “standard proofread” means checking for errors only, there is no copyediting improvements required and no structural information given.
  • The rate for a standard proofread is lower than that for copyediting and substantive work.


Comparative Proofreading

Once the editor or copyeditor has looked over the manuscript, the typesetter or author sets the work, making the suggested corrections.

The comparative proofreader then takes the corrected copy and the original copy and compares the two, checking that all corrections made by the copyeditor have been included.

This comparison between two texts is called comparative proofreading. It is a word-by-word, line-by-line check and is done with a ruler.

The job requires patience, concentration, a methodical approach and an eye for detail.

In Conclusion

Many publishers and corporate enterprises will outsource their editing jobs. A “complete job” often means “copyediting” and “proofreading” with a dash of “substantive editing” thrown in. For this reason, a professional editor should be able to do all the skills required for all of the above.