Paperless Proofreading

I started in the publishing business as a proofreader, reading type set in hot metal on a Linotype machine. I'd compare the type against the edited manuscript and mark any discrepancies. Then back the type would go for corrections, with additional cycles of proofreading and corrections until the type was error free.

Now the Linotype machine is gone. My electronic text is imported into QuarkXPress, and the number of errors on galleys is vastly lower than in the old days when everything had to be rekeyed by hand. Proofreaders still look over the typeset galleys for errors the editor may have missed as well as widows, orphans, and bad line breaks. But then we're right back into the old correction cycle. Isn't there a way to make it go away?

It turns out that there is. I call it "paperless proofreading." The idea is that proofreading should be done on the edited Word document *before* typesetting takes place. Some of the advantages are:

* No paper is involved, eliminating printing costs, copying costs, postage costs, and time in transit.

* Editors can merge the proofread documents and then use Word's reviewing tools to jump quickly to each correction and accept or reject it. This decreases the time needed to reconcile galleys.

* The corrected manuscript goes directly into typesetting, eliminating the correction cycle after proofreading.

Disadvantages include:

* The author and proofreaders must have a computer, Microsoft Word, and the ability to send and receive email. However, if they don't have Microsoft Word, they can download and install the free software and use its Write module to make and track their corrections. You can learn more here:

* There will need to be a separate proofreading for typography (bad breaks, etc.) and an accompanying correction cycle after the galleys have been typeset.

If you'd like to try this method of proofreading, here are the steps you'll need to follow:


1. Edit your manuscript in Microsoft Word.

2. When you're ready to send the manuscript out for proofreading, make any tracked revisions permanent (so you don't have to review them later along with the proofreaders' revisions). Then save the manuscript with a new name, such as "My Galleys.doc."

3. "Protect" the manuscript so the proofreaders can't change it without revisions being tracked. To do so, click Tools > Protect Document > Tracked changes. I'd recommend using a password here, but write it down so you don't forget it. You might want to use a password that's the same from job to job or even for all your editors. Just don't give the password to authors or proofreaders. Word will ask for the password twice. Click OK and then save the document.

4. Send the manuscript to your author and proofreaders as an email attachment. In the message, include your name, phone number, and proofreading deadline along with any special instructions. (Since they now have access to Word's Find and Replace feature, you should probably instruct them to *call you* before using the feature to make extensive changes. If you've already done a spell check, you might also mention that.) Part of your instructions should be to delete and insert whole words, not just modify existing words. That will make reviewing the changes much easier later on.

The author and proofreaders will need to save the document to their hard drive, open it in Word, make their corrections in Microsoft Word (*not* WordPerfect, which doesn't handle revision tracking well), save the document, and return the document as an email attachment.


1. After the proofreading has been done and sent back to you, save the documents from the author and the proofreaders to your hard drive, being careful to give each one a unique name so they don't overwrite each other ("My Galleys Author.doc," "My Galleys Proofer 1.doc," "My Galleys Proofer 2.doc").

2. Open the author's copy of the proofread document to be your reconciled version.

3. Make sure revisions are showing (Tools > Track Changes > Highlight changes on screen) and note the color of the revisions. After you've merged the other documents into this one, you may want to give revisions in that color more weight because they were made by the author.

4. Open the document and merge each of the others into it by clicking Tools > Merge Documents.

5. "Unprotect" the document by clicking Tools > Unprotect Document and entering the password.

6. Save the document with a new name, such as "My Galleys Reconciled.doc."

7. Review the corrections and accept or reject them as needed. There are two different tools you can use to do this:

* The Accept or Reject Changes dialog.

* The Reviewing toolbar.

If you have Word 2002, the Accept or Reject Changes dialog will not be available--unless you know the secret way to get it back: Click Tools > Macro > Macros > Macros in: > Word commands > ToolsReviewRevisions > Run. Note that you can put this little beauty on a menu or toolbar for easy access:

You can also move your mouse cursor over a correction to show who made it (as long as you've turned on Tools > Options > View > Screen Tips).


1. Click Tools > Track Changes > Accept or Reject Changes.

2. Click the Find button (or press F) to find the next correction.

3. Click the Accept button (or press A) to accept the correction. Click the Reject button (or press R) to reject it. Word will automatically go to the next correction. This has the advantage of speed but the disadvantage of not being able to review the text around the correction.

If you inadvertently reject a correction that you wanted to keep, click the Undo button to undo the rejection.


1. Click View > Toolbars > Reviewing. In the middle of the toolbar you'll notice two buttons with blue arrows on them, one pointing left and the other right. Click the button with the right-arrow to go to the next correction. Click the button with the left-arrow to go to the previous correction.

2. To the right of these two arrows are two more arrows, one with a checkmark and the other with an X. Click the one with the checkmark to accept the correction. Click the one with the X to reject (or stet) it. Word will *not* automatically go to the next correction. This is an advantage if you want to double-check the text around the correction but a disadvantage if you need to move quickly.

If you inadvertently reject a correction that you wanted to keep, press CTRL + Z to undo the rejection.

In Word 2002, you can limit your review to corrections by a certain reviewer. On the Reviewing toolbar, click Show. Then click "Reviewers" and clear the checkboxes except those next to the name of the reviewer whose changes you want to review. You'll find more information on tracking revisions in Word 2002 here:

After you've finished reviewing corrections, save the manuscript and send it to typesetting as usual.

Ah, but there'll still be a correction cycle because you'll want to review the typography in the typeset document. Well then, how about typesetting the document in Microsoft Word *before* proofreading takes place? That would eliminate the correction cycle entirely! You can learn more about typesetting in Word here:

Have you figured out some clever tips for streamlining the electronic production process? If so, I'd really like to hear about them, or just about your process in general. Please write to me here: mailto:editor [at symbol]



Seth R. Beckerman wrote:

There is a moderate list of web resources on the Council of Science Editors website:

Alice Falk wrote:

The best place I've found for locating online works generally, not just references, is "The On-Line Books Page":

There are online classical texts on the Perseus site:

The site has fantastic search capabilities--look for a phrase in all of Plato's works at once! switch back and forth between Greek and English!

Thanks to Seth and Alice for these useful resources.



Do you publish critical editions of classic texts? Would you welcome an easier way of handling the complex typesetting and formatting associated with margin references, Wadding numbers, variants, and citations? If so, you owe it to yourself to try Imprimatur. Imprimatur is a markup language interpreter used to typeset critical edition texts with almost unbelievable ease. The program takes an RTF file (saved from Word, for example) and almost magically formats it as needed. Even if you don't publish critical editions, this program is worth a look just to see the amazing techniques it uses to produce a typeset document in Word. You can learn more here:

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