02 Jan 2024

Glossary of editorial and publishing terms

This glossary is based on terms used in our proofreading and copyediting suites of courses, and as part of everyday professional practice in editing and proofreading. They shouldn’t be viewed as the only terms to use, the ‘correct’ or ‘right’ ones; there are alternatives to many of them. 

If you’d like to suggest any editorial terms for this glossary, contact our office


abbreviation: any short form in which letters are omitted, but more specifically one in which a word is curtailed (that is, the end is cut off, eg Jan, Wed); in this specific sense, contrasted with contraction.
abstract: a summary of an academic work that appears at the beginning of that work and can be published separately.
acronym: a set of capital initials that can be pronounced as a word (eg OPEC). Contrasted with initialism.
active voice: the difference between ‘we made mistakes’ (active) and ‘mistakes were made’ (passive). If you can name the subject it is an easier construction to read, and it sounds less evasive.
adjective: a word or term that describes a noun or pronoun.
adverb: a word that describes a verb, an adjective or another adverb. Many adverbs end with ‘-ly’.
alt tag: the text that describes an online image, to aid accessibility. Also called alt description or alt text.
artwork (a/w): the original material from which images in a publication, such as photographs, line illustrations and other figures, will be reproduced. It usually consists of digital files, but the term is also applied to physical originals, such as photographs or line images. Also any material (such as unusual symbols) that must be supplied to the typesetter already set, in digital form.
ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number): Amazon’s equivalent of an ISBN, which can only be used on that platform.
author–date system: a popular citation method where the author and the date are included in the text (eg Fukuyama, 1989) and full details of the cited work appear in an alphabetically ordered reference list or bibliography. Also called the Harvard system. See also short-title system and Vancouver system.
author’s voice: the qualities and features of an author’s writing that make it unique to that person. It conveys the author’s attitude, personality and character, which is why it is important that copyeditors and proofreaders consider very carefully any changes they make to the writing style.


bibliography: a list in the end matter of all works cited in a text that contains full publication details for each cited work. The list is usually ordered alphabetically by the surname of the author or first author of the work. Bibliographies are used with the author–date and short-title referencing systems, and may contain works not cited in the text, by way of further reading suggestions. See also references.
bleed: the area of a page that is trimmed away during the printing process. If printed materials have a background colour or illustrations that extend to the edge of the page, the design will need to run into the bleed area, which sits beyond the physical page dimensions.
blocked paragraphs: all paragraphs are full out to the left-hand margin and separated by a space.
blurb: the description of a work, usually a book, whose aim is to summarise the work and attract readers.
body text: the copy that comprises the main body of an article, thesis, chapter, book, etc, as opposed to headings, captions, figures, lists, etc.
book-style paragraphs: the first paragraph in a text or under a heading is full out to the left, with subsequent first lines of paragraphs indented. There is no space between paragraphs.
brief: the instructions provided by the client on the work that is to be done, the style elements that are to be applied and any other issues affecting the text that must be taken into account.
BSI marks (BSI 5261-2:2005): internationally understood symbols that are used for marking up corrections in copy and proofs.


call to action: the part of a piece of text that tells the audience how to respond, for example a button on a website that says ‘Read our glossary’.
call-out: a quote taken from the body of an article and displayed in a prominent way as a design feature.

camel case: a style of capitalisation often used in brand names. In this style, the second word in a compound name, where no space separates the first and second words, is capitalised. Examples are eBay and iPhone.

caption: the explanatory words that appear below (or above or beside) an illustration or figure.
character style: a set of formatting attributes that can be applied to one or more characters or words in one step.
citation: an in-text reference to a source. It should correspond with a full reference listing elsewhere in the document, in a footnote or endnote or a reference list or bibliography.
clean file: a copy of the edited or proof-edited file where all edits (Track Changes if using Word) have been accepted and the text appears in its final format.
clean-up tasks: routine changes at the start and end of a job, using Find and Replace and/or macros to remove unwanted formatting such as double spaces between words, spaces before punctuation and extra line spaces between paragraphs, or to implement house style, such as changing hyphens used as dashes to spaced en rules. As they are usually uncontentious, clean-up tasks can often be made as silent corrections.
CMS: see content management system
code/tag: used to show the typesetter/designer where a text element begins and ends (eg <CH> and </CH> around a chapter title); this is an alternative markup system to using Word Styles.
cold proofread: reading a proof without reference to any earlier version of the document (such as the copyeditor’s edited Word file or a hard copy with changes marked).
collating: combining the corrections from two or more sets of proofs (typically proofs read by the author and a proofreader) on to one set of collated proofs for the typesetter/designer to correct. Also referred to as ‘taking in’ corrections.
colophon: publisher’s imprint that gives information about place and date of publication and the publisher’s details.

comma splice: occurs where two independent clauses are (incorrectly) joined by a comma; for example, ‘John went to the shop, Nadia was there.’ While some fiction authors will use this construction for dramatic or literary effect, it is generally to be avoided. There are various ways to deal with this:
1. Create two sentences: ‘John went to the shop. Nadia was there.’
2. Replace the comma with a semicolon: ‘John went to the shop; Nadia was there.’
3. Replace the comma with a coordinating conjunction: ‘John went to the shop and Nadia was there.’

Choose the most appropriate solution for the context of the text you are working on.

compositor: see typesetter
content management system (CMS): computer software that is a repository for files and enables editing (often using an interface that looks similar to Microsoft Word) and publishing of pages of a website or other digital product. A page or document can be worked on by only one person at a time and not everyone who has access to pages will have the authority to publish them.
contraction: (1) a short form in which the first and last letters are present but the middle of the word is removed (eg Dr = ‘Doctor’); (2) a short, informal form, created by running words together, particularly in fictional dialogue (eg ‘haven’t’ = ‘have not’, ‘you’ll’ = ‘you will’).
contributed/contributory volume: in academic book publishing, a book where each chapter has been written by a different author, as commissioned by a volume editor or editors, who may also write their own chapters and supply introductory text such as a preface, and who deal with compiling the various typescripts into a single volume for copyediting.
copy: the original content of a document intended for publication. Once edited, the copy is sent to the typesetter or designer, who creates a finalised version or proofs. Copy is usually supplied as a digital file, where the editing can be tracked or highlighted. As well as text and illustrations, the content may include tables, charts, notes, references or other features, and the document may be published as a web page, leaflet, journal article, book or some other format.
copyediting: editing the copy (content) to match the client’s brief, the needs of the typesetter or designer and the expectations of the target audience. The copyeditor follows a house style or custom style sheet to make the content (text, references, illustrations etc) clear and consistent throughout, correcting errors in grammar, spelling, vocabulary and punctuation while using templates, codes or formatting to make the document ready for typesetting or uploading. Depending on the quality and completeness of the original, copyediting may include some queries, rewording, rewriting, restructuring or research (eg fact checking).
copy fitting: adjusting the text to fit the layout and dealing with overmatter. This can involve saving lines by deleting repetition or unnecessary words, using a shorter word with the same meaning, or adjusting spacing between displayed elements in the text. See also subediting.
copyright: the exclusive legal right to print, publish, perform, record or film an original text or artistic or musical work. The author or creator of the work owns the copyright until they sell or assign it to another individual or organisation. See also credit.
credit: acknowledgement to the holder of copyright in an image; credits may appear individually in captions or in a consolidated list in the front or end matter of a publication.
crosshead: a structural device of up to a few words (though often just one or two) that breaks up large amounts of text. The words in a crosshead are usually taken from the paragraph that follows it. See also subheading.
cue: a short reference to an image to indicate to the typesetter where it should be placed in relation to the text; it is written in a circle in the margin of hard copy, or keyed, usually in angle brackets (eg <Fig. 1.1 here>, <Table 2.3 here>), in digital copy. The cue is usually placed directly after the paragraph in which the illustration is first mentioned.


dangling participle (dangling modifier): a participle or modifier is described as dangling when it is used at the beginning of a sentence but has no connection with the subject of a sentence. ‘Nestling in a peaceful green valley [modifier], you [subject] will love the rural tranquillity of our holiday cottage.’ Dangling participles should be corrected as they introduce ambiguity.
design: the decisions taken on how elements that need special presentation (eg quotations, lists, notes, tables) should be structured and displayed. These are usually the responsibility of the designer, not the copyeditor/proofreader.
designer (graphic designer): someone who designs the document and creates a template for the typesetter to follow.
design/type specification: a document containing the decisions taken by the designer on the layout and typographical elements to be applied to a specific text that will determine how it will look on the printed page or screen. These include typefaces, type size, spacing and position on the page of all elements.
desktop publishing: where a document is designed and laid out by the author or publisher, rather than being outsourced to a typesetter.
developmental editing: the stage after a text has been written and before copyediting. In non-fiction, it aims to help an author clarify their message effectively for the intended audience; in fiction, it helps the author develop and refine a story to achieve their creative and publishing goals.
directional: a type of caption that directs the reader to a specific piece of artwork. Directionals may be used where the illustration fills a complete page and the caption has to appear on the opposite page (eg ‘Figure 1 opposite’), or where the artwork consists of several images (eg ‘Top left: View of the Houses of Parliament from south of the river. Top right: Aerial view of the Thames and the Houses of Parliament’). Directionals cannot usually be written until the material is laid out on pages with text, captions and images in their final positions.
displayed matter: any text feature that is broken off from the running text and set out separately, such as a heading, a mathematical equation, a bullet list, a long prose quotation or a piece of poetry, perhaps formatted and aligned differently from the main text. Displayed material usually has a space preceding it and following it, to make clear its separation from the main text; when copyediting, displayed matter needs to be assigned a style or a code/tag so that the designer can specify a typographic treatment for its layout on the typeset page.
DOI: a standardised unique number given to many (but not all) articles, papers and books by some publishers to identify a particular publication.
double numbering: images identified by chapter and serial number are said to be ‘double numbered’: the serial numbers start again at 1 in each chapter (Fig. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3; Fig. 2.1, 2.2, 2.3).
double-page spread (DPS): see spread
DPI: dots per inch. The more dots per inch, the clearer the print, so with images in particular it’s a good idea to aim for a higher DPI. 300 is standard for printing, but photographs on very large displays might appear at 1200DPI. See also PPI.
drop cap: a large capital letter (a dropped capital) of the depth of two or more lines which appears at the beginning of a chapter, section or paragraph.


edition: a version of a document such as a book or journal. Edition numbers go up as new versions are published.
editorial style: the way in which words, punctuation, individual characters and numbers are presented when there is more than one possible treatment: it covers spelling, hyphenation, punctuation, capitalisation, the application of italic and bold type, the treatment of numbers and abbreviations, and other variables. See also house style.

elide/elision: omitting something. Numbers, words, letters and sounds such as vowels and consonants (as in ‘gonna’ or ‘heav’n’) can all be elided. When used in reference to numbers, it’s the omission of numerals in a number range in order to reduce the number of digits; ‘maximum elision’ is the omission of as many digits as possible, as in a form such as ‘1760–1’ (in which ‘176’ is omitted before the terminal 1). Numbers in the teens are never elided: 18–19, not 18–9. Whether and how much number ranges are elided is a matter of house style.

Words are often elided to avoid unnecessary repetition. In ‘I like dogs; my sister, cats’, the word ‘likes’ is left out and replaced by a comma to indicate the omission.

embedded lists: lists that are part of the body text – run on – rather than displayed separately from it with bullets, numbers, etc.
em rule/em dash: a dash that is twice as long as an en rule, found in the Advanced Symbols feature of Word. Some punctuation styles use a closed-up em rule—as here—as a parenthetical dash.
end matter: a term used to refer collectively to the parts of a book that appear after the main text, such as appendices, the bibliography or reference list, and the index.
endnotes: notes that appear at the end of the text (usually between the main text and the bibliography in a book) or at the end of chapters, articles or sections. See also footnotes.
endpapers: the sometimes decorative papers that join the cover to the inside pages of the book.
en rule/en dash: a dash that is longer than a hyphen and half as long as an em rule, and found in the Advanced Symbols feature of Word. In some punctuation styles – commonly in British styles – it is used spaced as a parenthetical dash; in many styles it is used without spaces in number ranges (eg pages 12–17).
epigraph: a quote at the beginning of a book, or the beginning of a chapter or section of a book, that lends additional meaning to the context of the chapter. Epigraphs are usually formatted in a different way to other displayed quotes in the chapter.
essential capitals: see minimum capitalisation
extent: the length of a book (number of pages).
extract: the name given to block quotes that are set apart from the main text and formatted in a distinct way; see also displayed matter.


figure: the name for a piece of illustrative artwork (graph, diagram, line drawing, photograph, etc), together with its caption.
file conversion: see typeset/typesetting
Find and Replace (Microsoft Word): a function that allows you to search for words, terms or characters and replace them with something else. It is a useful tool when performing clean-up tasks before the main work begins.
flush left/right: the text is aligned with the left or right margin.
flyleaf: a blank first or last page of a book next to the cover – not all books have these.
folio: a term used for several things: a printed page number; a sheet of typescript; and a traditional book format.
font: see typeface
footer: see running heads
footnotes: notes that appear at the bottom of the page. See also endnotes.
foreword: a recommendatory introduction written by someone other than the work’s author. Sometimes misspelt as ‘forward’.
format (n): the size of a book (height × width, in millimetres).
format (v): to lay out but not typeset in the formal sense. Formatting might include applying styles for print or for an ebook.
frankenedit: a text whose parts, chapters or sections have been edited by different editors (sometimes each as a sample) and reassembled as a whole document. The editors do not know about each other and therefore there is no possibility of collaboration, standardisation or cohesion.
frontispiece: an illustration that faces the title page in the printed version of the book. It is used to indicate the significance of the image: for instance, in a biography it may be a photo of the subject of the book.
front matter: see preliminary pages
FTP (file transfer protocol) site: a website for transmission of large files that are slow or impossible to email; an FTP site or service (for example MailBigFile or WeTransfer) will upload a file to its site, then send a notification to the recipient that the file is available for download.
full out: not indented; adjoining the left or right margin.


genre: a category of literature, such as fiction or memoir.
ghostwriter: an author hired to write a work that, in publication, is credited to another person. One area in which the ghostwriter is active is in writing biographies and memoirs.
global change: an automatic change that editors make or that typesetters can be asked to make throughout the text, using find and replace functions.
gloss: the definition of a word or term. Hence glossary.
half-title page: the very first page of a book (after the flyleaf if there is one) that states the title of the book. See also title page.
halftone: a reproduction of a tone image in which the gradations of tone are produced by breaking down the image into a pattern of dots of different sizes, creating the effect of darker and lighter areas; the dots are so small that they achieve the effect of continuous tone. Publishers refer to black-and-white photographs as halftones (sometimes abbreviated to h/t).
hanging indent: where the second and subsequent lines in a numbered or bulleted list are indented to match the starting point of the text, not the number/bullet.
hard copy: any text provided as a printed paper copy rather than on screen.
Harvard system: see author–date system
headings: visually distinct separators between elements of a text, such as chapter heading (number, title, author of a chapter/article), or headings that divide a chapter or article into sections; see also running heads and subheading.


ibid.: (Latin ibidem, in the same place) in citations, this means that the details of the immediately previous citation apply here, too. It’s always worth checking this carefully, in case the citation that ‘ibid.’ refers to has been deleted or swapped in the course of writing or editing.
idiom: a form of expression, grammatical construction or phrase that is used in a distinctive way within a particular language, dialect or language variety, or a group of words that have acquired a particular meaning through usage that is not identifiable from the meanings of the individual words: eg ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’, ‘I’m pulling your leg’, ‘That’s the last straw’.
illustration: any visual element in the text, including figures, tables, diagrams, line images and photographs.
imprint page (verso title page or VTP): the page on the back (or verso) of the title page that contains all of its publication details and history and the legal information such as the copyright line and ISBN. It is sometimes called the ‘copyright page’.
indent: to create space at the start of a line, usually to signify a new paragraph.
initial capitals: see maximum capitalisation
initialism: a set of capital initials each of which is an abbreviation for a word (contrasted with acronym); in British English style, initialisms usually do not have full points (eg USA).
integrated images: images interspersed with the text and placed in the optimum position to allow the text and the images to be read together; contrasted with plates.
ISBN (International Standard Book Number): a unique 13-digit number by which a publication may be identified and ordered. Different formats and versions of the same work (such as audiobooks, ebooks, and substantially revised versions and new editions) need different ISBNs. The ISBN appears on the imprint page in the prelims and above the bar code on the back cover or jacket of a book. Journals have an 8-digit ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) instead.
ISSN (International Standard Serial Number): see ISBN
italic type: characters that slope to the right like this. Used to indicate elements such as titles of works, certain words, including those from other languages whose meaning could be confused if they were left non-italicised, and titles of legal cases. Also used sparingly to indicate emphasis.


justified: text adjusted so that all complete lines fill the text area and align at the left and right margins.


kerning: the space between two letters and the practice of adjusting it to make text easier and more pleasant to read.
key: in line images, a panel in which graphic elements used in the map, graph or diagram are explained: the key might show small squares of different colours, different styles of line (dotted, dashed, etc) or a set of symbols, each labelled to show what it represents.
keyboard shortcut: a sequence of keyboard strokes that remove the need for you to click your mouse in order to perform an action onscreen, such as ctrl-Z for ‘undo’.
key in: to type in. See also rekey.


label: in line images, textual material within the image that identifies or explains the graphic content; labels must be edited to match the style and content of the text.
landscape: a page or object (eg an illustration) whose width is greater than its height. See also portrait.
LaTeX: a typesetting program primarily used for technical and scientific documentation that relies on text being given appropriate codes/tags. Pronounced ‘lay-tek’.
layout: how material is placed on the page.
leading: the spaces between lines of type; originally, leading was a strip of lead added between the rows of characters, which is why the word is pronounced ‘ledding’.
legend: the term for a caption that consists of an incomplete sentence, although this distinction is not often made and the term caption is used for both complete and incomplete sentences.
ligature: a link created between two characters that enables them to fit together rather than clash, or simply look more elegant side by side. A combination that commonly carries a ligature is ‘fi’.
line editing: a term that some editors use to describe sentence-level stylistic work that considers sense, voice, mood, viewpoint, pace and flow. While line editing, editors may seek clarification from the author and suggest revisions.
line images (or line drawings): images with no variation in tone, eg graphs, diagrams, charts, maps, black-and-white cartoons; see also halftone.
lining figures: in numbers, all the figures line up at the top and the bottom, as if there is an upper and a lower line they must touch. See also non-lining figures.
literal errors (or literals): spelling slip-ups, excess or insufficient word spacing, or other clearcut unintended errors; see also typos.
long list: a list where each entry comprises a complete sentence or more than one sentence.
lower case (lc): historically, the ‘small’ letters were kept in the lower part of the typesetter’s tray (the lower case) and the capitals in the upper case; today, a lower-case letter is any letter that is not a capital.


macro: a section of computer code, created by recording and/or programming, that performs an editorial task within an application such as Microsoft Word. Macros perform a range of tasks, including: running a series of Find and Replace operations to ‘clean up’ a document; providing shortcut devices to speed up copyediting; and analysing a whole book to highlight potential inconsistencies of spelling, hyphenation or punctuation, or variations in proper nouns.
Maggie (v): to copy everything except the final pilcrow into a fresh Word document to escape repeated crashes or failures. Named after the late Maggie Secara, writer and editor.
marginal mark: in proofreading, the mark in the margin of a hard-copy manuscript that instructs the typesetter what correction to make at the corresponding textual mark.
markup (n): the signs and text that indicate amendments to be made; can be done on hard copy or on a digital file. See also mark up.
mark up (v): adding signs and text to copy/a proof in order to indicate amendments to be made. See also markup.
maximum capitalisation: a style of capitalisation applied to headings, captions and other features. In this style, all significant words are capitalised, and often articles, prepositions and coordinating conjunctions are lower case, but this varies. It is also called title case or initial capitals.
metadata: data about data. Metadata about an image might list its size, resolution, date of capture, and so on. On the internet meta tags describe different elements of a web page, and these are used by search engines when creating rankings.
minimum capitalisation: a style of capitalisation applied to headings, captions and other features. In this style, only the first word and any proper nouns are capitalised, all other words being lower case. It is also called sentence case or essential capitals.
modify/modifier: in grammar, a word, phrase or clause that functions as an adjective or adverb to provide further information about another word or word group. In addition to adjectives, words such as ‘only’ and ‘either’ also modify the subject, noun or pronoun they precede. It is therefore important for the sense of the text to place them in the correct position in the phrase.


narrative voice: in fiction, this is the perspective from which the story is told, as opposed to character voices, which are demonstrated through dialogue and character thought processes. Narrative voice perspectives can be first person (‘I/my’ or ‘we/our’ – a character within the story narrates it), second person (‘you/your’ – not commonly used), third person (‘she/he/they’ – the story is told by someone not involved in the story) and third person omniscient (the narrator of the story knows more than the characters in the story).
non-lining (old-style) figures: in numbers, figures might have ascenders and descenders, so will not appear to be uniform in size. See also lining figures.

non-restrictive (non-defining) relative clause: a clause which adds additional information that can be omitted from the sentence without changing its meaning. For example:

  • The English playwright who wrote Hamlet, Shakespeare, also wrote sonnets.

There is only one author of the play Hamlet, so Shakespeare’s name is put within commas. The sentence still makes sense if the name is omitted:

  • The English playwright who wrote Hamlet also wrote sonnets.

Also called a non-essential relative clause. See also restrictive (defining) relative clause.

noun: a word or term, such as ‘book’ and ‘editor’, that gives a name to a thing, person or place.


OCR (optical character recognition): software that allows you to scan a page containing text. Rather than producing a photographic image, the software converts the information into text that can be edited and searched in a word-processing program.
offset (lithography) printing: a method of printing using plates and a rubber surface to transfer ink to a page. One of its advantages is high-quality image reproduction.
op. cit.: (Latin opere citato) in citations, this means that the work has previously been cited.
orphan: the first line of a paragraph or a heading appearing at the foot of a page or column with no other lines of text following it, or a very short line at the end of a paragraph. See also widow.
overmatter: text or content for which there is no room in the layout. The editor or proofreader may need to suggest cuts or changes to make the content fit the space available.
Oxford comma: see serial comma


page heads: see running heads
paragraph style: a set of attributes that decides the look of the text in a paragraph. It may contain more than one character style, plus elements like alignment and indentation.
parochialisms: writing that expresses a limited viewpoint, which may not be understood or welcomed by readers from a wider sphere. For instance, in a text that is aimed at an international audience, references to ‘this country’ and ‘our government’ will be unclear to many readers. Similarly, statements such as ‘in the last few years’ will soon become obsolete. In all cases it is better to make the reference specific so that it can be understood by all readers: ‘in Canada’, ‘the UK government’, ‘since 2010’.
PDF (portable document format): a file format that preserves the appearance of a page regardless of the software or hardware used to view it.
perfect binding: a widely used method of book binding in which the pages are glued to the spine of the book. See also saddle stitch binding.
permissions: the consent from a copyright holder to use their work in a new publication. Material for which permission needs to be sought includes text, lyrics, images, TV and film scripts, computer programs and music.
pilcrow: a symbol that looks like a backwards ‘P’ that denotes the end of a paragraph in word-processing programs.
plagiarism: the action or practice of taking someone else’s work or idea and passing it off as one’s own. In other words, literary theft; see also copyright.
plain English: a style of writing that helps readers readily find the information they need, understand it and act on it.
plates: a sequence of images, usually photographs, reproduced in a signature of (say) 8 or 16 pages, usually printed on high-quality paper; contrasted with integrated images.
portrait: a page or object (eg an illustration) whose height is greater than its width – the most common shape of a page; see also landscape.
PPI: pixels per inch. A measure of the resolution of a picture. The higher the PPI, the clearer the image will be as it is enlarged. See also DPI.
preface: a personal introduction written by the author.
preliminary pages (prelims): also called front matter; the pages of a book that come before the main text. They can include title pages, contents page, preface, foreword or introduction, list of figures and so on. A proofreader will be expected to proofread these pages and cross-check any details such as page numbers in the contents list with actual page numbers.
print run: the number of copies of a publication that are printed at a time.
pronoun: a word or term that is used in place of a noun, such as ‘she’, ‘they’ and ‘them’.
proof: a sample document of how the final version of the text will look, often supplied by the typesetter, usually in the form of a PDF, which proofreaders or others who are working on the document can mark up on screen or hard copy.
proof collator: someone who takes the proofs that have been corrected by the proofreader and author and combines the corrections into one proof to pass to the typesetter.
proof-editing: the type of editorial work that is done on unedited material that has already been typeset (usually on a PDF) or that will not be separately typeset (eg it has been prepared in and will remain as a Microsoft Word document). Usually a more in-depth approach is needed than with standard proofreading.
proofing: supplying a proof (which is what the typesetter does).
proofreading: reading and marking up the proofs of a text to fix any problems in layout and design; errors introduced during typesetting; or mistakes missed during copyediting. It is the final stage before the text is released for publication, so the proofreader should not be looking to improve the writing style, layout or any other aspect of the text, and needs to take into account the effects of any changes they mark and how they will fit into the existing page layout.
proofreading against copy: checking that all corrections marked by the copyeditor on the copy have been implemented correctly in the proof.
pull quote: see call-out.


ragged right: left-aligned text that isn’t justified so its line endings are uneven on the right-hand side.
range: the technical term for aligning characters around or against a common point. For example, if the first characters of a column of data align with the left-hand column margin, they are said to be ranged left. Figures in a table may be ranged decimally (so that the decimal point in each number is aligned with all others) or with units under units, tens under tens, and so on.
ranged left / ranged right: terms used to describe text where the first character in a line is aligned with the left-hand margin or the final character in a line is aligned with the right-hand margin.
recast: to restructure or rework a sentence or passage to present the same thing in a different way, largely in order to correct grammar or punctuation issues, or to improve clarity or effectiveness.
recto: publishing term for the right-hand page when looking at a two-page spread in an open book. See also verso.
readability: how easy a text is to read and understand when encountered for the first time.
reference list: a list of those bibliographical items that are referred to in the text; see also bibliography.
references: other publications cited to support the argument in the text being edited. These citations may be in the form of direct quotes taken from those other publications, or to the works as a whole. The full details of each publication cited must be given in either a footnote or a list of references/bibliography elsewhere in the text.
rekey: the act of typing text into typesetting software rather than importing digital files of word-processed text. This was something typesetters had to do regularly when authors were still using typewriters (or fountain pens!) rather than word-processing programs. Typesetters still have to rekey changes made by the copyeditor or proofreader using some forms of markup.
reprint: the printing again of a publication without substantial changes. If there are substantial changes, such as revised or additional content, a new edition is necessary.

restrictive (defining) relative clause: a clause that cannot be omitted from the sentence without changing its meaning, for example:

  • The English playwright Shakespeare also wrote sonnets.

No commas are used in restrictive clauses. The following sentence is incorrect because it implies that there has only ever been one English playwright – Shakespeare.

  • [wrong] The English playwright, Shakespeare, also wrote sonnets.

See also non-restrictive (non-defining) relative clause.

revision marking: a means of showing on screen original text and proposed changes to that text; the best known of these tools is Track Changes in Microsoft Word. See also markup.
roman type: the most common typography style, where the vertical lines of all characters are straight up, and not at an angle as with italic type. Note that ‘roman’ does not have a capital letter when referring to typography.
rough: a draft version of a figure such as a map, graph or diagram (often hand drawn), supplied by the author as a guide for the illustrator, who will produce a finished version for publication.
royalty: an amount paid by a publisher to an author, representing a percentage of sales, in return for the right to publish the work.
rule: in typographic contexts, a line – as in en rule.
run in: when an element of the text that might usually be presented as displayed matter or otherwise separate from the body text is placed within the text. Quotations in quote marks that appear as part of the main text are known as run-in quotations.
run-in headings: headings that are distinguished (eg by being in bold or italic type) and often separated from the main text by a colon or a dash, with the text directly after the heading on the same line. See also shoulder head.
running heads: headings that appear at the very top of a page – also known as page heads or page headlines. A common convention is to have the name of the work on the left-hand or verso page and the chapter or section on the recto or right-hand page. In journals and magazines these headings commonly appear at the foot of the page and are known as running footers or feet.
run on: text that flows continuously without a new line or paragraph.


saddle stitch binding: a method of book binding that collates and folds the pages, then binds them and the cover together using thread or staples. Typically used for thinner publications than perfect binding.
sans-serif typeface: a typeface that does not incorporate extending lines or strokes at the end of larger strokes in letters or symbols. Examples of commonly used sans-serif typefaces are Arial and Helvetica.
scare quotes: quotation marks used to transmit the meaning ‘so called’; they are used for nicknames, colloquialisms, special terms and to indicate irony; avoid overuse.
script typeface: fonts that resemble handwriting.
sentence case: see minimum capitalisation
serial comma: a comma that appears before ‘and’ or ‘or’ in a list, for example: ‘apples, oranges, and pears’. Texts not using this style of punctuation would give the list as ‘apples, oranges and pears’. This is commonly seen in texts using US styles. If it is used, it should be used consistently throughout a text. It is sometimes known as the Oxford comma as it forms part of the house style of Oxford University Press. Occasionally a serial comma is used for clarity in a text that doesn’t otherwise use one. This might happen if the last element in a list itself contains an ‘and’: ‘The work involved staff from the operations, logistics, and health and safety departments.’
serif typeface: a typeface where a small line or stroke is regularly attached to the end of a larger stroke in a letter or symbol. Examples of commonly used serif typefaces are Times New Roman and Garamond.
set apart: see displayed matter
short list: a list where each entry comprises short phrases but not complete sentences.
short-title system: a citation method using footnotes or endnotes, where a marker, usually in superscript, is inserted where a citation is needed. The corresponding note gives full reference details the first time a work is mentioned, then a shorter version (typically the author surname and an abbreviated form of the work’s title) in subsequent notes. See also author–date system and Vancouver system.
shoulder head: a heading that sits on the left-hand side of the paragraph it relates to, often in the margin, with the text following on directly from it. See also run-in headings.
signature: a section of a book, consisting of a large sheet of paper folded multiple times and trimmed to produce pages (in multiples of 4, 8, 16 and so on); in a book with sewn binding (usually a hardback), only the outer three edges are trimmed and the folding at the inner edge is visible down the spine of the book; in a book with glued binding (usually a paperback), all four edges are trimmed.
silent corrections: correcting routine issues such as unwanted spaces between words or lines, and imposing elements of house style, with Track Changes switched off so that these changes are not marked in the text. This is done to eliminate clutter in the document and make it easier for the client to review the substantive changes that are tracked.
special sort: a character that isn’t usually included in standard fonts and therefore should be highlighted for the typesetter.
splash: the story with the biggest headline on the front page of a newspaper, or the lead item in online, social or broadcast media.
spread: when you open a book at any point, you have one page on the left and one on the right. In publishing, these pages together are called a spread, a two-page spread or a double-page spread (or DPS). See also verso and recto.
standfirst: usually the first sentence of a journalistic piece set in larger type and apart from the main text to catch the reader’s eye and give an idea of what the article is about.
stet: ‘let it stand’. Added to an earlier amendment to the text, ‘stet’ means to ignore this and revert to the way the text was before the instruction was made.
stub: technical term for the first column in a table.
style sheet: a detailed record of the variable spellings, hyphenation, capitalisation, etc used in a particular document, which records in detail the editorial style applied in the text. Copyeditors should routinely compile a style sheet when working on a text and this may be passed to the proofreader so they can see what style was intended to be applied consistently.
subediting: checking and correcting text, usually in a newspaper or magazine, to prepare it for print. A subeditor will often write headlines and captions, too.
subheading: a heading in the text that falls under a larger heading such as a chapter title or a section title. Subheadings break up the text into smaller, more easily navigated sections. The term is also given to a section of a heading that is subordinate to a main one and might come after a colon, as in ‘Glossaries: their joys and sorrows’.
subject: the person or thing that performs the action in a sentence.
subscript: position of a character below the imaginary baseline on which characters sit (eg H2O). Also called inferior.
superscript: position of a character above the imaginary baseline on which characters sit (eg 3cm2). Also called superior.


tag: see code
template: a pre-formatted document with certain elements in place that allows you to create a layout within certain parameters.
text measure: the length and width of the space on the page allocated to take the text in a layout. Long text measures can affect readability, which is why shorter measures are favoured in magazines and online.
textual mark: the mark in the text that shows the typesetter where to make the correction that is detailed in the corresponding marginal mark.
tint: shading made up of small dots, used in line illustrations or as a background for a text feature, such as a box or panel. It is available in various densities, which are expressed as a percentage of black (black is 100% tint and white is 0%); a 20% tint is darker than one of 5% and less dark than one of 40%.
title case: see maximum capitalisation
title page: a recto page after the half-title page that displays the name of the book and the subtitle, the author(s)/main illustrator(s), any series title, series editor and volume number, and the publisher’s name and logo.
tone: term applied to an image that contains continuous gradations of tone, such as a photograph or an original work of art such as a painting (as opposed to a line illustration).
Track Changes: a tool in Microsoft Word that records amendments suggested, and by whom. Track Changes can be accepted or rejected one by one or wholesale. Make sure you turn Track Changes on after you’ve performed silent corrections. See also revision marking and markup.
trade publishers: companies that produce general-interest fiction and non-fiction books and sell them directly to the public, through general retail trade, such as book shops and online booksellers, and to libraries.
transpose: switch around. Letters, words, parts of sentences, or larger sections of text can be transposed. There is a dedicated BSI mark for the purpose.
trim size: the size of a publication after it has been printed and cut to its intended dimensions.
turnover: in a list or table, any second or subsequent line.
typeface: the specific design of the set of characters used to create a text. Often referred to as a font, although that term is strictly a subdivision of a typeface, which can be thought of as a family of fonts. For instance, a document may use the typeface Arial, where the body text font is Arial Regular 11 points and headings are Arial Bold 14 points. Each typeface has a different design and takes up different amounts of space on the page.
typescript: a document produced by typing the text, either into a word-processing program or, in the past, on a typewriter.
typesetter: (also called a compositor) the person who puts the text into the typesetting program and lays it out in the design template. Historically, they ‘set’ the text in metal type by hand and made up the pages.
typeset/typesetting: at its most basic, to typeset means to set textual matter in type. Today it means taking a text produced in a word-processing program (eg Microsoft Word) and flowing it into a typesetting program such as Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress (sometimes called file conversion) so that it follows the design template for the document.
typo (typographic error): historically, an error in setting metal type by hand, such as an upside-down character, but today it has come to mean any misprint.


unjustified: text lines that have even spacing between words and a ragged right-hand edge.
upper case (uc): capital letter(s); see also lower case.


Vancouver system: a citation method mostly used in scientific publishing. The source is cited in the text using a number in brackets or superscript, and then full references are listed later in the work in a numbered list in the order they appeared in the text. See also author–date system and short-title system.
verb: a word or term, such as ‘walk’, ‘read’ and ‘edit’, that describes an action.
verso: publishing term for the left-hand page when looking at a two-page spread in an open book. See also recto.


widow: the last line of a paragraph that appears at the top of the next page or column. See also orphan.
word break: the break in a word at the end of a line, inserted by the typesetter or automatically by typesetting or word-processing software, because the complete word will not fit.
Word Styles: sets of text formatting specifications that can be applied to different elements in a Word document to define headings, paragraphs, lists and so on. Documents with Word Styles can be flowed into some design packages, providing an alternative to codes/tags.
Word template: in Microsoft Word, a file that is pre-formatted with the layout and styles required for a specific type of document. Any text added will automatically be fitted into the correct page layout, and styles to be applied to it will be readily to hand.

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