Dunkelberg's Proofreading Marks

Here are some of the most common proofreader's marks I find myself using in papers. Since I try to save time grading by using abbreviations and standard symbols, I have listed them by the abbreviation I use, then by the meaning of the abbreviation or symbol. Finally, I have provided a brief explanation for each term. You should consult a grammar handbook to find out how to correct these problems in your writing if you are unsure what you need to do. The Little Brown Handbook is standard in MUW composition classes, so hopefully you still have yours. Most of the symbols I use are based on the ones listed in TLBH, though I have added a few abbreviations for common problems students have with their arguments, as opposed to purely grammatical problems.

Using this system saves me time when grading your papers and gives me the opportunity to write substantive comments on the content of your argument. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask me. If I have used an abbreviation not found on this page, I will add it if I think it is common enough. Your other professors may use similar proofreading marks when grading papers, though there are different systems for naming and abbreviating, so don't be surprised if you see some variations.

Please note: I had to draw the first three symbols in a drawing program, so they appear significantly bigger than the other symbols, and they won't look this big in your papers. I had to leave them this size so they would be clearly visible in the table.

SymbolMeaningExplanation
deleteDelete the word(s) or letter(s) indicated with a loop through them.
close upThere is an extra space. Delete it. Sometimes I use this when you have spelled a single word incorrectly as two words.
indentAn arrow pointing to a line at the beginning of a paragraph means you should indent the first line of your paragraph. In front of a long quoted passage, it means you should indent the entire passage. The vertical line indicates approximately how far you should indent.
 #add spaceYou need extra space, usually between two words that have been run together.
 =capitalizeThree lines under a letter or word means it should be capitalized
 ^insertA caret mark between two words means you should add the word or phrase I've suggested at that point
 /slashA slash with letters or punctuation marks indicates you should add the character or characters indicated
 //parallelTwo slanted lines indicates that you have used an unparallel construction for a list or in another situation where the meaning of your sentence would be clearer if the parts were stated in the same manner.
 ¶paragraphThis symbol indicates you should start a new paragraph. Often when this is marked, the resulting paragraphs need to be developed. You have switched topics in mid-paragraph and haven't fully explored them.
agagencyThis is when the subject of your sentence isn't the real actor. For instance, you might write: 'The story thought humans were created out of clay.' Since stories don't think, this sentence doesn't make sense.
agreeagreementMost commonly, this is marked when the subject and verb do not agree in number‹you have a plural noun with a singular verb, for instance. Sometimes it is the pronoun and its referent which do not agree in number or person.
awkawkwardThe underlined phrase is grammatically correct, but there is a clearer, more concise way to phrase it.
cscomma spliceTwo independent sentences have been joined by a comma, with no conjunction or other means to correctly join them.
dmdangling modifierThis is when the implied subject of the dependent clause is not the subject of the sentence that follows. Revise this by adding the correct subject to the clause.
expexpandTell more about the topic you just raised. Usually there is evidence from the text that you should use to back up an assertion you have made or the issue is more complicated than you have indicated from your discussion of it.
explexplainAs with 'expand,' you need to discuss this topic more in your paper, explaining why you hold the view you do or where you see evidence of it in the text.
evevidenceYou need to show where you found evidence in the text to support the point you are trying to make.
fontfont sizeThe size font appears bigger than 12 pt or you have chosen a font that sets significantly bigger than Times or Helvetica. Please use 12 pt Times or an equivalent legible font for your essays. 10 pt is acceptible, especially if you don't have Times or Helvetica and need to use Courier or another font that looks big on the page.
fragfragmentThis is when a sentence lacks a subject and a verb or when it is a dependent clause and therefore can not stand alone as a sentence. Often you can revise this error by linking the fragment to the sentence before or after it, though sometimes it is better to add the subject.
fusedfusedTwo independent sentences have been run together as if they are one, with no conjunction or other means to correctly join them.
incincompleteSimilar to a fragment, this is when a word is missing from your sentence. I often mark an 'x' in the sentence where I think you need the word
iqintroduce the quoteWhenever you quote from a text, you should integrate the quoted passage into your essay by providing a phrase or sentence that sets up the context of the quote, introduces who is speaking, and begins an interpretation. After a quotation, you should also explain the significance of the quoted passage.
mixedmixed constructionThis is when the grammar of your sentence switches in mid sentence.
mmmisplaced modifierThis is when word or phrase (usually underlined) is ambigous or unclear due to where it is placed in the sentence.
no itno italicsThe underlined text should not be in italics, but should be in plain text style.
no bno boldThe underlined text (or a long passage in bold) should not be in bold type, but should be in plain text style. Generally, you should not use bold in your papers.
redredundantThe word or sentence you've used repeats an idea that doesn't need to be repeated.
refreferentThe noun to which the pronoun refers is not clear. Often this happens when you use the noun in the possessive. Then a pronoun can't refer to it. For example: In Lorca's poem, "Somnambule Ballade," he writes...‹this is incorrect, since he can not refer to Lorca's only to Lorca. Revise this to read: In his poem... Lorca writes...
spspellingThis indicates a misspelled word. This may be a word that is correctly spelled but is not the word you mean. For instance, there, their, and they're are often misused, resulting in a misspelled word.
sisplit infinitiveGenerally, you don't put any word between the two parts of an infinitive verb form (to + verb). 'To boldly go' is a common example of a split infinitive that is so familiar from Star Trek as to become accepted. In an essay, it would be better to say, 'to go boldly' or 'boldly to go' depending on the context.
tensetense shiftKeep the tense of your essay consistent. If you talk about the action of the story in either present or past tense it is fine as long as you don't switch back and forth (except to indicate a change in the time frame of the story).
trtransposeSwitch the parts of the sentence that I have marked with a line above and below.
transtransitionProvide a clear transition between two points. When marked between two paragraphs, you will likely need a sentence or two that shows the relationship between the topic of the first paragraph and the topic of the second. When marked between two sentences, you likely need a phrase or introductory word (yet, but, however, similarly, etc.) that makes the connection between your ideas clearer.
unclunclearThe meaning of the underlined phrase is unclear.
vvagueThe meaning of the passage is not precise or specific enough.
wcword choiceThe word you have used does not fit the context you use it in. You may be confused about its definition
wordwordingThe underlined word or phrase is non-standard or unclear. Find a clearer way to rephrase what you want to say.