Back to School: Proofreading Marks Cheat-Sheet

Daily proofreading practice builds skills that will last a lifetime and it’s a great way to kick off the new school year. We can probably agree that more and more students seem oblivious to proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. As good educators we all ponder the reasons why and then we pull every trick we know out of English teaching magician’s hat to teach those missing skills.


Do you consistently have students use proofreading symbols to find errors in written work (either for practice or with peers’ drafts)? Do you use those symbols when marking on their printed drafts? What are the implications for teaching proper proofreading when it’s now possible to comment on drafts electronically? The chart featured below can also be accessed by clicking on this link to the Proofreading Symbols handout. At the beginning of the year, every student should receive the handout to keep in their binder for quick access or you might want to consider laminating a classroom set.


Picture of Proofreading Symbols

The Proofreading Procedure

Every class, except for test days and other special occasions, should begin with a proofreading activity. Upon entering the classroom, the routine is for students to grab the bell work activity from a designated basket. There should always be 10 errors in paragraph. As soon as the bell rings, welcome everyone and then read the paragraph aloud or have a student read. Provide a few minutes for students to mark as many errors as possible on their own. It’s usually best to walk up and down the aisles to get a peek at their work. Next, slowly provide hints (going in order) on the type of corrections that need to be made. That will help reluctant or slower proofreaders do better and re-affirm the work of students who find most of the errors on their own. Finally, have students come to the front of the classroom and make corrections sentence by sentence on the SmartBoard or overhead projector. I like randomly calling on students by drawing notecards that have their names written down. Consider having students keep each daily exercise so they can hand them in as a packet at the end of the quarter for five points each. If paper use is a factor, these skills can be practiced without individual photocopies, but students tend to focus much better when the exercise is on a printout.


Do you use standard proofreading marks either in your own life or in the classroom?


Feel free to download the proofreading marks sheet and use it as you see fit by using the link above.

Author: Jeri Walker

Need help writing that book blurb, bio, or newsletter? Give your book the attention it deserves. Book your copy edit, manuscript critique, or proofread today. Make every word count.

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  1. I taught Junior High English for eleven years and my class always began with a proofreading activity. I would have two sentences on the board that the students would copy into their notebooks in ink. Then, in pencil, they would proofread and correct the various grammar and punctuation errors in the sentences. After five minutes they would tell me what the errors were and I would mark them on the board. I implemented this system in all the language arts classes in our school, and the consistent improvement in their standardized test scores was phenomenal! Thank you for this post on the importance of proofreading skills!

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    • I noticed a huge difference as well! The consistent practice really does help quite a lot. Just imagine if students had to do such quick daily editing practice in all subject areas… It would be a great way to also emphasize the jargon of various subjects. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Thanks for you ideas! I teach English as a foreign language in France. I´m going to use your proofreading sheet in class and, obviously, cite my source. I may also start my classes with a proofreading activity. Thanks again!

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    • Christopher, starting class with a proofreading activity is a great way to get students settled and down to work right away.

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