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[Typography] Editing & Proofreading

category: Design | course: Typography | difficulty:

The last stage of the design process is checking and rechecking everything; both design decisions as well as the actual textual content. You shouldn’t find major problems in this stage (if you do, go back to the start), but instead fix grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors. There’s not really a performance difference between accurately reading text in print (hard copy) or on a screen (soft copy), so whatever process you choose is up to you.

Before we begin: the term proofreading comes from the fact that, before final printing begins, multiple test copies called proofs are made. This is, of course, only applicable to when something has a final form; websites, for example, are dynamic and ever-changing, and will probably need constant updating.

General Advice

  • Let other people check your text; they will spot errors and mistakes much easier.
  • Don’t over-format your text. As you’re writing, you shouldn’t think about the typography, but only the text itself. This is especially true for authors, as the final design of their books is usually not chosen by themselves, and depends on the length and structure of the final text.
  • Don’t wait for proofs to examine the text. Read the content, and whenever you spot an error and think you’ve found an inconsistency, immediately change it or at least keep a list of possible errors at all times.
  • As you proofread and edit a text, don’t obfuscate the original text, and don’t just put down a red cross mark. Let the original text stay visible, and state what exactly is wrong.

Soft Copy

Editing soft copy is quick, as you can immediately change things within the editor. On the other hand, however, you must scrupulously remove all the edits before final production begins. You’re also more limited in your choices for editing; you can’t write on the page as you can with hard copy.

Typographic styles (such as italic, bold or small caps can be changed directly, just as converting hyphens to dashes, or dumb quotes (straight quotes) to smart quotes (curly quotes). When it comes to changes in the text itself, though, the editor needs to communicate with the author. The following notation is common:

  • Words to be removed are struck out
  • Words to be added or substituted are underlined, highlighted, or coloured.
  • Comments to the author are [set within brackets]
  • When it comes to punctuation, strike out the entire word instead of just the punctuation, as underlining punctuation is messy.

Hard Copy

The image below shows easy ways to show what’s wrong within the text, as well as marks to add in the margin to make clear what exactly should be done.


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