A Guide to Copyediting Marks


The first time you receive your copyedited manuscript, it can be intimidating. It’s as if the codes from The Matrix were regurgitated on to a Word doc. file. So seriously, what do these weird marks strewn all over my beautifully typed pages mean?

The guide below will help serve as a reference for these mysterious copyediting marks. Before you know it, you’ll be deciphering the markings like a pro!

Keep in mind that the logic behind most of these copyediting symbols is simply to make punctuation changes more visible. Who would notice a comma if it didn’t have a little roof above its head?

One more thing: this post only applies to copyeditors who copyedit by hand. Most copyeditors use track changes in Word. See a screenshot below for an example of changes that were made by hand. If you prefer one format over the other, be sure to let us know, and we’ll pair you with a copyeditor who has the same preference.

Handwritten Copyediting Marks

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 2013 and has been updated for accuracy.

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This is very helpful

Ezuma Peace Patience

As a copy editor, one of the most important duties aside from writing headlines is to edit manuscripts written by the reporter. The mastery of editing symbols is very important as these symbols are the same everywhere; the exact symbols used in Armenia is the same used in the US showing the universality of the symbols.
This article gives an example of a handwritten edited copy clearly outlining the symbols and how they are used. It is however a very good guide for upcoming editors. DEPARTMENT OF MASS COMMUNICATION, CALEB UNIVERSITY, LAGOS.


Thank you for providing an easy-to-understand, online example of copyediting marks. I will share this URL with my blog readers.

Carole Modlin

Good information about proofreading manuscripts. How can I print just the editing symbols chart from your website? I teach a writing class, and want to familiarize students with the proofreading “language”.


This is useful… but do all copy editors edit by hand? What about editing using a word processor?

Asif Khan

They edit on the hard copy


Even when editing on a PDF the same symbols hold.


Wow, thanks! This definitely was a new information for me.


Thanks! There were a couple that I did not know.


You show the symbol for deletion but there is sometimes also another symbol for word/text “insertion” which is the ꓥ (an upside down V beneath the line where the text is to be added) with the word/text written above the line or in the margin.

Fareen Effendi

Someone should create an online tool to insert these symbols into an electronic format..


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