The following handout, which I give to students in various writing courses, lays out my method for having students deal with proofreading and copy-editing.  I do this as the last stage of a paper’s process.  See Writing Process and Teaching Process for more on how I conceive the stages.


You will find in the left margins of your papers certain cryptic marks intended to point out the general location and nature of various editing-level mistakes I would like to see corrected in the next version of your paper.

There is a basic distinction between revision and editing, as I use those terms.  By “revision” I mean substantive change in what is written; by “editing” I mean cleaning up what’s already there by fixing misspellings, errors in word usage, garbled sentence structure, etc.

It is very probable that your paper will need both revision and editing, but the marks I’m referring to on this sheet pertain only to editing.  Don’t confine yourself to this, but understand what I’m pointing at.

Notations on the list below will be found in the left margin of your paper next to a line or sentence in which an error occurs.  But I have not pointed out exactly where that error is, because I want you to find it for yourself.

NOTATION (code book):

p = punctuation (the “p” category includes uses of quotation marks)

sp = spelling or typo (the “sp” category includes uses of the apostrophe)

S = sentence structure

v = verb form

caps = some problem with capitalization

n.s.w. = no such word

m.w. = missing word

e.w. = extra word

w.w. = wrong word

# = common symbol for a space.  Means something is wrong involving spacing.

h = hyphenation

cit = citation missing or faulty

Please discover and correct errors marked in these ways before turning in the final copy.  I do not enter a grade for a paper in my grade book until it has been copy-edited successfully.

REMEMBER: Revision is more important than editing.  Revise first; correct later.


You can download this as a Word document here: Proofreading & Copy-Editing

You can download this as a PDF here: Proofreading & Copy-Editing (PDF)