Confused by all the new terms? Check out our proofreading glossary.
Want to know more? See our list of recommended online and print resources.
Shortened versions of words, often in the form of acronyms and initialisms.
The active voice makes the subject of a sentence (the person performing the action) clear, e.g. The car was crashed in the passive voice needs a subject in the active voice, e.g. Jimmy crashed the car.
Abbreviations made up of the first letters of each term in a phrase. They are pronounced as a single word (e.g. UNICEF or NASA).
Words such as a and the which specify what a noun refers to.
A complete list of all sources consulted during the writing of an academic paper.
Short for confer, which means compare. It is used to point the reader toward additional reading material, e.g., These results are confirmed by previous studies (cf. Smith, 2008). Here, for example, cf. indicates that the subsequent citation provides a useful point of comparison.
An in-text note to show the attribution of a source text, e.g. This is a citation (Jones, 2016).
A noun that refers to a group, e.g. band or police.
Connective punctuation mark ‘:’, used to introduce a definition, an example, or an explanation, e.g., I’m unhappy, but I have a solution: I’ll have a champagne picnic on the beach.
When a comma is used in place of a full stop, e.g., Kylie Minogue is an Australian pop singer, she has had seven number one singles in the UK. Here, each clause should be a separate sentence.
An adverb used to show a comparison, e.g., he plays guitar well, but she plays guitar better.
A function of Microsoft Word that allows the user to compare two versions of the same document to generate a track changes copy that shows all changes.
Words in which two or more words are joined to represent a new concept. There are open compounds, such as coffee shop or New Year’s Eve, closed compounds, such as hairdresser or daydream and hyphenated compounds, such as pop-up or father-in-law.
Words which join clauses, such as and, but, for, yet, and so.
Phrases which have been shortened into a single word, e.g. don’t, can’t, or it’s.
This is when something modifies a word or phrase that has not been clearly identified, e.g. Looking into the distance, the sun dipped over the horizon. Here, the person doing the looking has been omitted from the sentence, so it seems as if the sun is gazing into the distance.
These are used to specify the thing to which a noun refers. These include articles (e.g., a and the), possessives (e.g., your and their), and demonstratives (e.g., this and those).
Marks placed above or below a letter to show how it is pronounced, sometimes loosely termed accents, as in jalapeño or bête noire.
This is a table of contents, charts, images, or figures that is generated automatically from the headers in a document. Using a certain style for each header you want to include will allow the tool to automatically create a table from them, complete with page numbers.
Traditionally, this refers to all the elements that are involved with changing the words and structure of documents. However, it is now mixed with proofreading in most areas of digital work.
Short for exempli gratia, which means for example. It’s used to introduce an example or an incomplete list.
A set of three dots … used to indicate omitted text in a quotation or to show that a sentence has trailed off (usually in fictional dialogue).
A punctuation mark – slightly longer than a hyphen, used to indicate ranges of numbers, scores, connection, conflict, or parenthetical clauses, e.g. the Mason-Dixon line.
A punctuation mark — slightly longer than an en dash, used to indicate parenthetical or extra information, e.g., Miranda walked to work—the same route as every day—humming a tune.
This stands for ‘English as a Second Language’ and can refer to anyone who does not speak English as their mother tongue.
Short for et alia, meaning and others. It is used to show that names have been excluded when citing a work by several authors: Ford et al. (2004) examined the effects of releasing a bull in a china shop.
Also written as etc., meaning so on or and the rest. Used when the things omitted from a sentence are not essential to understanding what is said, e.g. We’re going camping, so make sure to bring a tent, sleeping bag, etc.
When terms in a sentence are not grammatically consistent, e.g. The mayor sign the contract.
Sentences featuring incorrectly constructed clauses. These can include mixing verb tenses, infinitive and gerunds, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and plural and singular nouns.
The space at the bottom of each page in a Microsoft Word document. Editing this will give you an identical footer for each page.
This includes all aspects related to the presentation of a document such as layout, line and paragraph spacing, margins, headings, tables and images, fonts, tables of contents, and page numbering.
Sentences lacking a main clause, verb, or subject, e.g. Because it was sunny outside.
The overwhelming use of male/female pronouns or the use of masculine/feminine terms instead of a gender-neutral alternative.
Verbs with describing actions, such as running or jumping.
Reflects the point of view from which a document is written. In academic papers, a third-person, impersonal approach is favoured. This means that using first- and second-person pronouns (e.g. I, we, you) is usually discouraged.
The space at the top of each page in a Microsoft Word document. Editing this will give you an identical header for each page.
Words that sound the same but have different meanings, like which and witch.
A punctuation mark – used to link parts of words, especially in compound words, e.g. free-range eggs.
Short for ibidem, meaning in the same place. It is often used when citing the same source twice in a row.
Short for id est, which means that is. It’s used to rephrase or explain something that has already been said.
Any verb used with ‘to’, e.g. to sing.
Made up of the first letters of each term in a phrase; each letter is pronounced separately (e.g. BBC or FBI).
This refers to any false accusation in the public sphere that could damage someone’s reputation. Proofreaders should be aware of this and if they spot any, they should gently point out instances to the client.
Another name for tracked changes, this refers to all the different kinds of changes in a document: comments, insertions and deletions, and formatting.You can choose which of these elements you’d like to see, as well as changes by specific reviewers, in the markup options of Microsoft Word.
Things that are not individuated, e.g. milk or luggage. Also known as uncountable nouns.
A form of editing used in publishing, this could involve tasks such as correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation, checking headings, abbreviations, terminology and some aspects of formatting.
When the positioning of a modifier in the sentence makes the term being modified ambiguous, e.g., A longboat full of Vikings, promoting the new British Museum exhibition, was seen sailing past the Palace of Westminster yesterday. Famously uncivilized, destructive and rapacious, with an almost insatiable appetite for rough sex and heavy drinking, the MPs nonetheless looked up for a bit to admire the vessel. In this case, the misplaced modifier is deliberate, designed to mislead the reader regarding the term being modified to make a joke about MPs.
This occurs when a longer noun form is used in place of a verb, e.g., His policies could bring about the destruction of our society. In this sentence, bring about the destruction of is a nominalisation. To make it shorter, we could use the verb destroy instead, e.g., His policies could destroy our society.
These are clauses that provide non-essential information in a sentence and are set apart from the main part of the sentence using commas, e.g. The man in the ring, who has 62 pairs of shoes, is the clown. Since the clause about shoes here is non-restrictive, it gives us extra information about the clown, but it could be removed without affecting the meaning of the sentence.
The name of a thing, e.g. chair or mango.
Parts of sentence that offer extra information, usually indicated with commas, parentheses (brackets), or dashes, e.g. The mayor, as well as many people in the city, cares about pollution.
The passive voice is a way of writing that avoids the use of the first person. It can lead to wordiness and a feeling of distance, e.g. the sentence: The first Best Actress Oscar was won by Janet Gaynor in 1929 works much better in the active voice: Janet Gaynor won the first Best Actress Oscar in 1929.
An apostrophe used to indicate ownership, e.g., Where is the dog’s ball?
Words such as your and their which indicate possession.
This is when an author uses someone else’s work without attribution. Often, this happens by mistake when an author forgets to reference quotations. It can also happen if a student submits academic work that someone else has written for them and can result in severe penalties – such as the student being refused their degree. For this reason, it’s important that proofreaders of academic work know how much they can alter in a student’s work without crossing the line into plagiarism.
Words that refer to more than one of something, such as girls or buses.
These show the relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other words in a sentence. These include words such as upon, through, and beside.
The language and dialect used by the spellchecker. Users of this course will mainly need to switch the proofing language between UK, US, and Australian English.
We use this term to refer to the general mix of tasks common to modern-day digital proofreading work. Traditionally, there is a distinction between proofreading and editing which is still preserved in publishing. For digital work, proofreading can refer to: correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation, making changes to the way ideas are expressed, making changes to improve flow, correcting inappropriate language or misused terms, and checking and correcting references and citations. It can also include checking margin spacing, page layout, and tables, images, and captions.
When another author’s words are cited in the text. These have to be formatted differently for different referencing styles.
Terms which are not needed as they are simply synonyms of others in the sentence, e.g. ATM machine. Some are so common they are easily overlooked, such as first and foremost, advance planning, or basic necessities.
A note to show the attribution of a source text, usually coming in the reference list at the end of an academic paper, e.g. Jones, S., 2016, What’s a Reference? London, PA Publishing.
Restrictive clauses are clauses that are essential to the meaning of a sentence, e.g. in the sentence the man in the crowd with jelly on his head is the clown, we need the clause with jelly on his head to indicate that we are referring to a specific person, not just any man in the crowd.
Based on the phrase sic eras scriptum (i.e. thus it was written), sic is used to show that a quote has been reproduced exactly as it appears in the source text.
A connective punctuation mark ‘;’, used to link related independent clauses, e.g., Of all the arts, John loves musical theatre most; his friend Theresa likes the ballet.
Words that refer to just one of something, e.g. girl or bus.
Used to correct minor errors that are present in the original text, e.g. She had a flat tire would become: She had a flat [tyre].
A document showing how to present writing, giving stipulations for formatting, vocabulary, punctuation, and referencing.
The tool for predefined formatting in Microsoft Word. This covers font, size, line spacing, and everything else about how text appears on the page (or screen). As well as making it easy to apply formatting quickly and consistently, Word uses different styles for different parts of the text, such as captions and headers. These special styles can then be used to add lists of contents or images to a document.
More concise than a style guide, this shows how a particular institution wishes documents to be formatted, and which terminology, dialect, and grammatical and spelling conventions they prefer.
Used to write about something that is not the case, such as a wish, or a possibility, e.g. If I were rich, I would buy a desert island. (Here, the verb were is in the subjunctive mood.)
A form of editing used in publishing, this could involve tasks such as revising text to improve its flow, clarity or consistency, suggesting changes to the structure of a document, or considering if the tone and language of a document align with its purpose.
An adverb used to compare two or more things, e.g., he and she both play guitar well, but I play guitar best.
Any punctuation used to mark the end of a sentence, such as full stops, question marks, or exclamation marks.
The name of a function in Microsoft Word, that can show any edits that have been made to a document.
See mass nouns.
The name that shows who has made comments or tracked changes in a Word document. This is set through the user preferences of the program.
A ‘doing’ word, so any word that is used to describe an action, such as to run.
If you’d like to widen your knowledge of proofreading, grammar, and English usage, here is our list of recommended online and print resources:
US English: https://www.merriam-webster.com/
AUS English (subscription only): https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/
Editing and Proofreading
Butcher’s Copy-editing: the Cambridge handbook for editors, copy-editors and proofreaders, 4th edition, by Judith Butcher, Caroline Drake and Maureen Leach, Cambridge University Press, 2006
New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, revised edition, Oxford University Press, 2014
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, by R W Burchfield, Oxford University Press, 2004
English Grammar for Dummies, by Lesley Ward (angliciser) and Geraldine Woods, John Wiley, 2007
Rediscover Grammar, 3rd edition, by David Crystal, Longman, 2004
The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty
Online Grammar Guides
Penguin Guide to Punctuation, by R L Trask, Penguin, 2004
Online Punctuation Guides
The Guardian Style Guide: http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2004/07/15/styleguidepdfjuly2004.pdf
Your House Style: styling your words for maximum impact, 2nd edition, by Christina Thomas, Society for Editors and Proofreaders, 2014
New Hart’s Rules: the handbook of style for writers and editors, 2nd edition, adapted from The Oxford Guide to Style by R M Ritter, revised edition, Editor-in-chief Anne Waddingham, Oxford University Press, 2014
The Cambridge Guide to Australian English Usage, by Pam Peters, Cambridge University Press, 2007. Available online at: https://eslebooklibrary.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/australianenglishusage.pdf
Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, Chicago University Press, 2010
MHRA Style Guide 3rd Edition: http://www.mhra.org.uk/series/MSG
The OWL Purdue Writing Lab guides to MLA, APA and Chicago (footnote) citations: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/
The Business Style Handbook, 2nd edition, by Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene, McGraw Hill, 2013
Inside Book Publishing, 4th edition, by Giles Clark and Angus Phillips, Routledge, 2008
English Language: General Interest
The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way, by Bill Bryson, Penguin, 2009
Troublesome Words, 2nd edition, by Bill Bryson, Penguin, 2002
The Phrase Finder: http://www.phrases.org.uk/