Category Archive: proofreading

Apr 21

Editing Visual Components

Visuals aren’t just those pretty things that push the words aside. Graphs, charts, diagrams, photos, and other illustrations help readers make sense of complex ideas. They help the reader orient to the text, and address visual and spacial learners that might be left behind by words alone.

Editors at various stages of manuscript development and quality assurance must comment on the visual elements of the product. Below you will find checklists of things that should be checked and flagged at each stage, and resources for learning more about effective visual communication.

illustration of man laying water tiles over a desert

These resources are presented in answer to Professional Editorial Standards requirement C5: that editors “Recognize when graphic elements must be edited to clearly and effectively convey the intended meaning,” with recommendations made by my colleagues in both editorial and design. Specific hat tips appear at the bottom.


Get practice giving the kinds of editorial feedback required for visuals at each stage of the manuscript/ product development. Come hear Cheryl and Adrienne in person:

June 12 at the Editing Goes Global conference in Toronto



snapshot peek of the printable checklist for editing visuals at 3 stages in the editing process

Print out the checklists for your own use.



Checklist for Substance

The developmental editor, right near the beginning of the project (or the acquisitions editor or managing editor, substantive editor or any number of other titles) acts as a sort of artistic director, deciding which visuals to commission, and directing their content. They consider whether:

  • illustrates what text says it will
  • content matches what is indicated by running text and doesn’t include (too many) extras
  • contains enough detail (per narrative and goal)
  • point of view appropriate to the content (e.g., cross section vs broad view)
  • comparisons, contrasts, and context are appropriate to the data/ message
  • style appropriate to audience and message (e.g., cartoon, set-up photo, or line plot graph)
  • labels self-explanatory
  • alignment and proximity of elements (and text) are relative to their importance and relationship to each other (e.g., heading levels)
  • graphs start at zero and scale is not distorted
  • data is represented accurately, avoiding pitfalls of distorted data representation
  • requested resolution is adequate and appropriate to the medium (e.g., 300 pdi for print, 72 for on-screen)

Checklist for Style

At the copyediting stage, the editor should be verifying that the content of the visuals matches the accompanying text. This is the most recognized editing skill set. Sometimes it is called line editing. They check:

  • font type and size correct/appropriate
  • capitalization style correct
  • word choice matches running text
  • colours and patterns high enough contrast (consider usability and accessibility: screen size and resolution, colour blindness and other visual impairments)
  • bright colours used for accents, not main content
  • design choices fit theme/ ideologies
  • design choices aid usability (consider audience and medium)
  • numbers/ values match sources
  • representations accurate and truthful
  • totals and calculations verified (e.g., percentages add up to 100)
  • single scale and measures used for related graphs (data)
  • exaggerations are appropriate
  • sets of visuals (of equal importance) are similarly sized
  • look is consistent across product set/ brand

Checklist for Quality (Proofreading)

At the page proofing stage, proofreaders should be checking that copyeditor’s changes were correctly implemented and that all elements adhere to the style specifications of the product. This stage is sometimes called quality assurance and may be done by someone on the design team. They verify:

  • spelling matches text
  • caption matches image
  • all elements of image present
  • no details lost in the fold
  • copy editor’s changes input correctly
  • alt text in place for accessibility and SEO
  • text legible (size and contrast)
  • resolution adequate and appropriate to the medium
  • colours and contrast accessible
  • credit/ source lines in place and accurate
  • placement leaves enough space around text and doesn’t force awkward layout
  • visual infelicities edited out (e.g., a stain on a shirt, unless that’s important)
  • placement of captions and visuals is consistent
  • captions are accurate — see additional captions checklist


Final Quality Check

Always review graphics in the final medium. That means printed on the press that will produce the final product, on a Kindle if that’s the destination device, or on a SMARTboard, etc. The quality and style checklists may be helpful.


Print out the checklists for your own use. You can even break them up and distribute them to relevant team members as long as my credit for creating them is included, and you don’t sell them. (CC BY-SA 2.0 license 2015)




Thanks to Cheryl Stephens for posing the question in the first place, and for becoming my partner in crime: sleuthing out these resources and developing detailed guidance for (copy) editors together. Cheryl is an instructor at the Writing and Publishing Program at Simon Fraser University Continuing Ed (Editing Certificate). Particularly helpful colleagues who entertained my questions and directed my attention include Carla Douglas and Wendy Millard, two local colleagues. Carla is a fellow editor, proprietor at Beyond Paper books. Wendy is a designer, and serves on the board of the Registered Graphic Designers of Canada.
Image of the battle against desertification by Robbert van der Steeg used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

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Feb 18

Even the Lorem Ipsum Needs Proofreading

Tweet this post.Today, in my How To column at, Greeked text so garbled that even Cicero would roll in his grave:

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Feb 04

It’s about More Than –our, Eh? Canadian Spelling Update

Tweet this post.Author of the latest guide to Canadian spelling, Elizabeth d’Anjou, talks to me today about what she found out when researching the related chapter for the about-to-be-released (online only) Editing Canadian English. We talked about a lot more spelling issues that I could cover in a single post, so watch for more in future Canadian, Eh? columns at

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Dec 03

8 Ways a Ruler Rocks Editing

Tweet this quote.close up on numbers 789 on a clear rulerHow do you use a ruler when editing? I list 8 uses for rulers at (not of) the editing desk, today in my Canadian, Eh? column at

Link to my Canadian, Eh? column on


Photo by Theilr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license. 

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Nov 20

QA Trick for File Names

I just discovered something so simple and effective that my jaw literally dropped. To proof file names (or create a list for transmittal):
Tweet this quote.


  1. Open your file browser (Finder or My Documents)
  2. Select all files (cmd + a)
  3. Copy using cmd + c
  4. Open a blank text file (Word will do)
  5. Paste using cmd + v

*For Windows users, use the ctrl key where you see cmd above.

screen capture of files selected in finder and pasted in Word

Presto. Now you have access to all of your usual copy editing tools. Run your macros, your spellcheck, your consistency checker. Just remember to turn on Track Changes so you can transcribe those fixes to the file names themselves.

Make the spellchecker work on the final word by ditching all the file extensions (.jpg, .doc, etc.). Just search for the file extension (with preceding period) and replace with nothing.


Why this Helps

Some products I edit are electronic. The files I transmit are the final ones that will be burned to a disk (old-school) or uploaded to a content management system (CMS). File names are as important as chapter titles. My check caught some transposed letters (typos). Win!


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Nov 13

A Colour Hack to Sharpen Your Editing Eyes

photo of printed text viewed through a blue ruler and a yellow rulerChanging the background colour of your document can trick your brain into seeing the words in a whole new way. People with reading disabilities (such as dyslexia) have had great success with this hack. To change the colour, you can use

Tweet this post.

  • a sheet of coloured acetate
  • coloured glasses
  • background colour of the onscreen doc
  • a coloured ruler

How a Ruler Can Trick Your Brain

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Nov 06

Shortcut to Rotate Pages in a PDF

Those sideways PDF pages? Rotate in a click. Note that this rotates all pages in the PDF, and only temporarily. Just rotate them back when you’re done marking up the page.
graphic of keyboard shortcut to rotate a PDF page: command shift plus for clockwise and command shift minus for counterclockwise


To permanently rotate Read the rest of this entry »

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Oct 15

Proofreader’s Marks

headline marked up with some proofreaders' symbols

Tweet this quote.Proofreaders mark up printers’ proofs with symbols to indicate corrections that need to be made. The are by no means standard. A look at what Canadians use, today, in my Canadian, Eh? column at

Link to my Canadian, Eh? column on


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Jul 28

How to Edit the VIP and Keep Your Job

funny close-up photo of a girl pouting, by Dan Foy used under CC BY-2.0 license

How to edit the VIP and keep your job. (Tweet this) Tips for treading lightly, today in my How To column at to my columns on


Photo by Dan Foy used under CC BY-2.0 license.

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Jul 21

How to Find Out What a Character Is in Word

Screen Shot of Word 11's reveal character formatting Mac


Need to get more than this from Word? Wondering what character that really is in your Word document? Has the writer used the proper degree symbol (°) or some hack like superscripting a lowercase o (o)? Today I present two macros to help you in my How To column at


Links from the post:


Link to my columns on (Tweet this post by @scieditor)


Check these recent related posts:


Thanks to the anonymous commenter who asked this question on last week’s post about finding non-printing characters. It was an excellent prompt regarding a very useful thing for us technical editors to know.

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