What Do All Those Correction Marks Mean on My Paper?

Confused about the teacher's squiggly marks on your paper? This list of correction marks includes the most common proofreader marks you'll see on your paper drafts. Be sure to make these corrections before turning in your final draft!

01
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Spelling

Understanding Proofreading Marks

This "sp" on your paper means there is a spelling error. Check your spelling, and don't forget about those commonly confused words! These are words like effect and affect that your spell check won't catch.

02
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Capitalization

Understanding Proofreading Marks

If you see this notation on your paper, you have a capitalization error. Check to see if you have put the first letter of a proper noun in lower case. It's a good idea to read over these capitalization rules if you see this mark often.

03
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Awkward Phrase

Understanding Proofreading Marks

The "awk" indicates a passage that just seems clunky and awkward. If the teacher marks a passage as awkward, you know that he or she has stumbled over your words during a reading and become confused about your meaning. In the next draft of your paper, be sure to rework the phrase for clarity.

04
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Insert Apostrophe

Understanding Proofreading Marks
Click to enlarge.

You will see this mark if you've omitted an apostrophe. This is another mistake that the spell checker won't catch. Review the rules for apostrophe use and revise your paper.

Understanding Proofreading Marks

Comma rules can be quite tricky! The teacher will use this mark to indicate that you should insert a comma between two words. This list of common comma problems might help you overcome bad habits. More »

06
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Paragraph

Understanding Proofreading Marks

This mark indicates that you need to begin a new paragraph in a certain location. When you revise your paper, be sure to rework your format so that you begin a new paragraph each time you complete one point or thought and begin a new one.

07
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No Paragraph

Understanding Proofreading Marks

Sometimes we make the mistake of starting a new paragraph before we complete our message or point. Teachers will use this mark to indicate that you should not start a new paragraph at a particular point. It might be helpful to read over some tips for using great transition sentences.

08
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Delete

Understanding Proofreading Marks

The "delete" symbol is used to indicate that a character, word, or phrase should be deleted from your text. Wordiness is a common problem for writers, but one you can overcome with practice. When you omit unnecessary words, you make your writing crisper and more direct. 

09
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Insert a Period

Understanding Proofreading Marks

Sometimes we omit a period accidentally, but sometimes we jam sentences together in error. Either way, you will see this mark if the teacher wants you to end a sentence and insert a period in a specific point.

10
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Insert Quotation Marks

Understanding Proofreading Marks

If you forget to enclose a title or a quote within quotation marks, your teacher will use this symbol to mark the omission.

11
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Transpose

Understanding Proofreading Marks

To transpose means to switch around. It's really easy to type ie when we mean ei--or make some similar error when typing. This squiggly mark means you need to switch around some letters or words.

12
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Move Right

Understanding Proofreading Marks

Spacing errors can occur when formatting a bibliography. If you see a mark like this one, it indicates you should move your text to the left or right.

Seeing Lots of Red Marks?

It's easy for students to feel disappointed and deflated when their first draft comes back to them all marked up with proofreading marks. This is unfortunate! A large number of correction marks on a paper is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, the teacher is so enthusiastic about the great work she's reading that she wants to make it perfect! Don't let lots of marks on a first draft get you down. It's the final draft that matters.
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Fleming, Grace. "What Do All Those Correction Marks Mean on My Paper?" ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-do-all-those-correction-marks-mean-on-my-paper-1857661. Fleming, Grace. (2017, March 3). What Do All Those Correction Marks Mean on My Paper? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-do-all-those-correction-marks-mean-on-my-paper-1857661 Fleming, Grace. "What Do All Those Correction Marks Mean on My Paper?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-do-all-those-correction-marks-mean-on-my-paper-1857661 (accessed October 23, 2017).