Using Proofreading Marks to Edit Writing

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Learning how to identify errors in written work is important; even more important is knowing which proofreading marks are used to correct errors. In this lesson, we will go over the most important proofreading marks, so you can learn how to recognize and use them.


Proofreading Marks

Proofreading is the process a writer uses to find errors in written work. Different marks are used to point our different punctuation, grammar, and formatting mistakes. To make it easy for everybody to understand what errors are being pointed out by a teacher or a peer, a series of proofreading marks have been made that can be used and understood by all writers. The most important proofreading marks are those that point out capitalization, spelling, and punctuation errors because those mistakes can make it hard to understand a person's writing. In this lesson, we will learn about popular proofreading marks that teachers use to correct written work.

Punctuation Marks

Punctuation errors are fairly common in students' writing, so it is necessary to know the proofreading marks that are used to point out missing commas, periods, quotation marks, apostrophes, and other punctuation. The caret is the main proofreading mark used to address punctuation mistakes. The caret is a triangle-like symbol that can point upwards or downwards depending on what error it is referring to.

Apostrophes and Quotation Marks

The downward caret is used to show students that they need to add an apostrophe, single quotation mark, or double quotation marks into the work. The caret is placed above the words and points downward to the location that the punctuation is needed.

Commas and Other Insertions

On the other hand, an upward pointing caret is used to show the need for commas, semicolons, or colons. This caret is placed underneath the sentence that requires the change.


Periods use a different symbol to show that the written work needs a period. A period with a circle around it is added. The circle can be used to mark that something is missing from the sentence as well.

Spelling and Other Grammar Marks

Misspelled Words

Sometimes, words are misspelled or we accidentally type a word twice. Thankfully, proofreading marks exist for these easy-to-fix mistakes. For misspelled words, the letters 'sp' are written above or over the incorrectly-spelled word. Sometimes, a teacher may circle the word and write the letters as well.

Reversed Word Order

Sometimes, words are written in the wrong order. You can use the transposed words symbol to show that the order of two words needs to be switched around. A line is drawn over the first word and continues under the second word.

Delete a Word

Teachers can also use a mark to show you where a word needs to be deleted. It looks a lot like a loosely drawn line with a loop in it, sort of like a shoelace.


It's important to know the rules for capitalization, but sometimes we make mistakes, so it's very important to know the proofreading marks that tell us to change a word to start with an uppercase or lowercase letter. The proofreading mark that shows that a word needs to be capitalized is three horizontal lines placed under the first letter of the word. For a word that should be lowercase, a slash is placed through the first letter of the word.

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