Cheat Sheet

Copyediting and Proofreading For Dummies

As a copyeditor or proofreader, you know that you can’t know everything, so you need outside resources and references and lots of them. Although most resources are available online, it’s still helpful to have certain books on hand. And, of course, you need to know your proofreading symbols so that you can make changes and understand other editors’ changes.

Must-Have References for Copyediting and Proofreading

If you’re a copyeditor or proofreader, you know the importance of good reference sources. Much of the information in desk references can be found on the Internet, but a good copyeditor or proofreader should have hard-copy references as well. (You never know when your Internet connection may slow to a crawl.) The following list contains five references you can’t live without:

  • House style sheet: You get this reference from the company you work for or, if you freelance, the person who hires you. When you question how something is presented in a document, it’s the first reference you check.

  • Style manual: Your employer or client is likely to have a favored style manual, which may be The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, or The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. If the house style sheet doesn’t answer your question, check the style manual. And make sure you know which edition of the style manual is being used.

  • Dictionary: Don’t copyedit or proofread without one. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition is preferred by many professionals, but you must use whatever dictionary your employer or client prefers. Get the latest edition; language changes quickly, especially in the technical realm.

  • Grammar and usage guide: Some examples are Garner’s Modern American Usage, The Elements of Style, Words Into Type, and The Merriam-Webster Usage Dictionary.

  • Specialty references: Some books that may be helpful include The Synonym Finder by Rodale, Merriam-Webster’s Geographical Dictionary, Wired Style, and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Depending on the types of projects you work on, your bookshelf may soon sport specialty references you never imagined needing.

Web Sites for Proofreaders and Copyeditors

Whether you’re a copyeditor or a proofreader, you probably do a lot of your work electronically. And the Internet is a great place to find helpful and interesting resources, such as those in the following list:

  • Bartleby.com: Letting the resource speak for itself: “Bartleby.com combines the best of both contemporary and classic reference works into the most comprehensive public reference library ever published on the web.”

  • Google will be your gracious fact-checking workhorse.

  • Merriam-Webster OnLine provides the 10th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for free and the 11th edition for a subscription fee as well as a host of other resources.

  • The New York Times’ Newsroom Navigator is a fact-checking launchpad for its reporters.

The Proofreading Symbols

As copyeditor or proofreader, you need to become familiar with the proofreading symbols so that you can make your edits understood. The following tables list proofreading symbols every proofreader and copyeditor should know:

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