What are the Duties of a Proof Reader?



Proof reading is not a decision-making task. The proof reader never makes corrections on the basis of his own judgment (except of course, where the proof and copy desks are identical).

His duty, basically, is to make sure that the type agrees with the copy. Just the same, it is to the advantage of the newspaper to employ alert, language-adept, libel-conscious proof readers.

Even though it is not their duty to make judgments, they can be very valuable in calling to the attention of the desk mistakes which have survived to the proof-­room level.

Routine by proof reading is done with the copy at hand but not invariably by checking word for word from copy to proof. For instance, "straight'' news matter is usually read by a single proof­reader, who watches for lapses in "sense" which alert him to the possibility that something has been "dropped out" : perhaps a line has failed to cast or the operator has unconsciously skipped a line or part of a line in the copy, or perhaps lines have been lost or trans­posed in the process of shifting the type. When he suspects such lapses, he has only to refer to the copy to correct them.

Usually a conscientious proof desk checks all figures against copy as a matter of routine, since figures are especially vulnerable to error and erroneous figures can so often distort the sense of a story grossly.

Proof which contains many figures or is otherwise especially subject to error is usually checked by two proof readers: one reads aloud from the proof and marks corrections; the other the "copy holder", follows the reading through the copy.

Corrections are made in the margins of the proof. When space limitations in the margin prevent writing in a full correction, it is possible to send both proof and copy to the correction machine, with the proof marked "see copy" at the appropriate point.

Editing in Proof:

While routine proof reading is largely concerned with making the type agree with the copy, the copy desk often uses it to make changes of another sort. In a sense, the copy editor must be able to U6e proof marks as an editing device. For instance, when he revises a story to incorporate new material, it may be necessary to make corrections in the part of the story already in type to make it congruent.

Nevertheless, proof is no place for "second thoughts". Time and the stress conditions in the composing room require that the editor consider the consequence of each proof mark he makes in terms of the magnitude of the correction and the time and labour needed to accomplish it at such a later hour.

Changes which correct errors of fact are necessary. Corrections which make a substantial contribution to the reader's understanding of the story should also be carried out. Corrections which add a touch of polish to the story or substitute a somewhat more felicitous phrase should, however, be avoided.

The proof-reading symbols resemble copy-reading symbols in some instances but in many cases the one may not be substituted freely for the other. Proof marks have more or less constant symbols from one newspaper to another.

Two Ways of Marking Proof:

Generally speaking, there are two ways of marking proof. One is the "formal" way and it is favoured in book proof reading. This method makes two marks for every correction, one at the point in the proof where the error may be found, the other in the margin to show what change is to be made.

The other method, sometimes called "tracking", is favoured in most newspaper proof-rooms. This method is to draw a line from the point where the error is found out into the margin, where the proof symbol notes the correction to be made.

A few additional cautions about proof reading are recom­mended:

(i) A correction in one line may mean that half a dozen succeeding lines or more will have to be reset. It is some­times possible to avoid this where the correction is handled so as to assure that succeeding lines are not affected. For instance, when a word must be added, another word in the same line or the next may be deleted or shortened to make room. Otherwise, resetting will have to be carried up to the next paragraph break.

(ii) Proof marks should be entered in the margins-never on the type itself-and invariably in the order in which the lines occur. This means that the correction should be marked beside the offending line on the proof, not above it or below. The importance of this detail may be appreciated by anyone who watches how corrections are made. The operator sets them in the order in which he finds them in the margin, and the printer who inserts those marks from the proof to the correction line in the galley. If all three are in the same order, his job is made easier.

(iii) Proof marks should follow standard practice and be clear and unmistakable. The need for unambiguous communica­tion at this point is emphasised by (a) the several hands through which the correction must pass, and (b) the probability that the corrections will be made at an advanced stage when time is particularly at a premium.

(iv) Only a clear proof gives full protection. If a proof is not well inked, the temptation is to guess and guessing can result in failure to detect important errors. It takes only a minute or two to get a better proof "pulled".

(v) Generally speaking, corrections are made in the left-hand margin for errors occurring in the left half of the column and in the right margin for errors in the right half of the column.

(vi) When corrections are "'tracked" into the margin, care should be taken to prevent the tracking line from oblitera­ting the working above or below by drawing it between lines. This is also true when "reading the page", even though the line may have to be drawn across several columns to reach the margin.

(vii) Confusion can be avoided when more than one error appears in the same line by drawing one tracking line above, another below the line, one to the left, another to the right, etc.

(viii) When more than one error is found in a single word, it is always sound practice to delete the entire word and substitute the complete correct word.

(ix) It is always safer to line out a figure, such as a sum of money, and writes the correct figure in the margin than to indicate the correction by means of transposition marks or other symbols.

(x) Proof reading requires an eye for type design as well as for other sorts of errors. "Wrong fonts" are a rather frequent source of trouble in newspaper composition. Any proof that contains many of them indicates that a number of mats from some other magazine are running through one of the machines and it is well to let the composing room know about this immediately. A great many more such errors will have to be corrected unless the offending mats are quickly found.

The Standard Marks in Proof-Reading:

As proof correction work in India has so far followed the British practice, a number of symbols being used in proofs consist of English terms, such as 'stet', 'trs', 'see copy', 'insert rule', 'rule', 'small type', etc. With widespread increase in literacy in the country, there is a considerable increase in reading material, especially in Indian languages. Need has, therefore, arisen to have standard proof correction symbols which could be used uniformly throughout the country by all the presses whether dealing publications in the English language or in the various Indian languages. Accordingly, linguistic symbol", including those mentioned above, have been replaced in this standard by non-linguistic symbols.

The elimination of linguistic symbols paves the way for world-wide co-ordination of proof reading practice which would be applicable to all language groups.

It is necessary to distinguish between proof correction work and introduction of editorial changes in the proofs. In the interest of expeditious and economical production, it is essential that the letter should be reduced to the minimum. It is also important that errors at the composing stage should not be attributable to defects in the manuscript. With this end in view, recommendations to be followed in the preparation of the copy for the printer are made below.

Basic Considerations:

This standard prescribes two sets of symbols to be used in correcting proofs, one in the margin and the other at the place in the text where the correction is to be made. It also includes some recommendations for preparation of copy for the printer.

Symbols in proof corrections, both in the margin and in the text, shall be used as specified. For convenience of reference, the proof correction symbols are grouped under the following successive headings:

A. General B. Punctuation C. Spacing

D. Alignment E. Type

All corrections should be given only in the margin.

The correction in the margin shall be given opposite to the line to which it belongs.

If a correction cannot be accommodated opposite to the line in the margin and has, therefore, to be given elsewhere, the line to which it belongs should be indicated.

In the text, appropriate symbol shall be used to indicate the place of correction.

When two or more corrections occur in one line, the corrections may be suitably divided between the left and right margins, the sequence being always from left to right, irrespective of the margin in which they appear.

Author's corrections should be avoided as far as possible.

Where author's corrections are indispensable, they shall be made such that a minimum amount of extra work at the press is involved.

[Note: In making these corrections, where it is necessary to add a word attempt should be made to delete a word or words of about the same number of letters nearby; if a word is to be deleted, a word of about the same length may be added. Similarly, if a line is to be added, a line may be knocked out, even if it is a line of only one word. If these suggestions are acted upon, they will help avoid whole paragraph(s) having to be reset.]

The proof corrections carried out by the press may be verified in the printed copy, correction by correction, as indicated in the margins of the corrected proofs.

In the case of matter composed by linotype, the whole line in which a correction has been made shall be checked. In linotype .composition, even a single correction requires the resetting of the entire line.

In the case of insertions and deletions, since it is possible that a number of composed lines or even a whole paragraph-may be affected, care should be taken to determine the affected lines or paragraph, and to check the entire affected matter afresh. This will eliminate the possibility of new errors creeping in as a result of remaking of composed matter.

Preparation of Copy for the Printer:

The manuscript should be typewritten on one side of paper in double spacing. In unavoidable circumstances, it may be written out, but in a perfectly legible hand and on one side of paper only.

The manuscript should be made up of sheets of uniform size, leaving a margin of not less than 3 cm. on the left-hand side.

The pages should be numbered consecutively, and fastened securely together at the left-hand top corner.

If, after the sheets have been numbered, it becomes necessary to delete a passage extending over a whole sheet of manuscript, the passage should be clearly marked through and the sheet left in place.

The manuscript should be carefully revised, and all corrections in the copy should be made, not in the margin, but in the text, in ink, scoring out all rejected matter. If as a result of revision, extensive alterations have to be made, the paragraphs or pages concerned should be re-typed and checked again. The manuscript as sent to the printer should represent the final version of the text.

The time to consider alterations is BF.FORK sending manus­cript to press and not at the time of proof-reading. Many authors subject their typescripts before sending them to press to two entirely different kinds of checking operations-one to read, re-read, and, if necessary, amend until satisfied that the meaning has been conveyed as they wish it to be and the second to eliminate any inconsistency in style, punctuation, capitalization or spelling.

When a printed copy is sent to the press as original, the correc­tions may be made in the margin, the margin being extended by pasting strips of paper on to it, if necessary.

Each diagram, illustration, map and table, except informal table, should be on separate sheet.

(Note: The processes available for reproduction of diagrams, illustrations, maps, etc. are so varied that the author would be well advised to consult his publisher or printer in this matter).

Footnotes should be avoided as far as possible. When used, they should not be placed at the foot of the sheet, but immediately under the line to which they refer. The footnote should be sepa­rated from the text by two horizontal lines drawn across the sheet, one above and the other below the footnote. In addition, to meet the convenience of printers and to save time in seeing the manuscript through the press, all the footnotes should be copied out on separate sheets in the same sequence as in the manuscript and with appropriate references to their positions in the text.

Unless overall instructions for the use of different kinds of type, have been given to the press, authors may be well advised to indicate the kind of type required in different places in the-manuscript in accordance with the following suggestions:

Words to be printed in capitals should be underlined by three lines., and in small capitals by two lines. Words in italics should be underlined by single line and in bold type by a wavy line. Words and word-groups to be printed in Caps and Small Caps should be encircled, and the appropriate symbols given against them in the margin.

Matter to be printed in small type should be indicated by a vertical line in the margin by the side of the matter with the appropriate symbol given in the margin.

Beginning of new paragraphs and indenting should be indicated by the use of the appropriate symbols specified below.

Any special requirements as to the arrangement of the setting should be written in the margin headed: Note to Printer.