Correcting Essay Marks

A caret shows where an additional or corrected or substituted letter, word, or phrase is to be inserted in or above the line.

A horizontal line delete mark is made through a phrase, sentence, or paragraph. A vertical line delete mark is made through a single letter or mark of punctuation. The letter or punctuation to be deleted may also be circled with the delete mark.

A stroke through a capital letter means set it in lowercase.

Three lines under a lowercase letter mean to make it a capital.

One line under a word means to set in italics.

 A series of strikethroughs means to remove underlining.

A wavy line means to set in boldface.

This mark means to close up space. It's often used with the delete mark.

This mark means begin a new paragraph.

A straight line between letters or characters means to add one space. A space mark (#) means the same thing.

Two short parallel lines mean insert a hyphen.

This mark means to change the order of—or transpose—letters, words, or phrases.

Dots under a word or passage mean leave the word or passage as it was before the correction. The word stet ("let it stand") is often written in the margin.

Last updated: June 1, 2017

An overview of commonly used proofreading symbols

If you've ever had a hard copy of a document proofread, chances are that you're familiar with the strange typology of professional proofreaders. Your returned document is so full of symbols (hieroglyphics? squiggles? cuneiform script?!) that you think it has been translated into Martian!

These strange markings are the "footprint" that your proofreader has left on the document to highlight where changes need to be made to the text. The proofreader uses a series of symbols and abbreviations to suggest changes, correct spelling errors, improve punctuation, and generally enhance the quality and readability of a hard copy document.

Locating proofreading marks

In hard copy proofreading, corrections typically appear in the left or right margins beside the line containing the error. A mark is also placed in the text to indicate where the correction needs to be made. A caret (^) indicates an addition, and a line through the text indicates a deletion or a replacement. Proofreading marks are traditionally written in red ink for better visibility.

Frequently used proofreading marks

Delete: , or

Delete a letter: a diagonal line through the letter with the delete mark in the margin

Delete a word: a straight line through the word with the delete mark in the margin


Space needed:

Close up a space:

Delete letters and close up a word:

New paragraph:

Period or full stop:

Semicolon: or

Colon:  or 

Insert or superscript:

Insert or subscript:

Insert comma:

Insert apostrophe or single quotation mark:

Insert double quotation marks:

Insert en dash: , , or

Insert em dash: , , or 

Centered: , or 


Frequently used abbreviations

Let it stand:





Roman typeface:

Bold typeface:

Faulty diction: DICT

Awkwardly expressed or constructed: AWK

Wordy, too verbose: WDY

Wrong word used (e.g. to/too): WW

Eliminate the need for proofreading marks

Deciphering a proofreader's suggested changes used to take hours; fortunately, it doesn't have to any more. Submit your document to any of our proofreading services today for a speedy, easy-to-use document review that makes use of Tracked Changes instead.

Image source: Kay Ransom/

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