A few years ago, before the widespread use of digital word processing software, the proofreading process was mostly manual. Proofreaders were given hard copies, or just copies at the time, of a manuscript for proofreading. The same features were considered, e.g., spelling, grammar and punctuation. For rewriting and editing, this process would be even more time consuming, as the editor would have to manually rewrite the content. Proofreaders would use an internationally recognized set of symbols in order to mark errors, and then the writer would keep track of these errors and correct them in a new written version of the original manuscript.
The ISO 5776 comprises the set of recognized symbols proofreaders used to apply during their work. A preview of this list of symbols can be accessed here. In today’s digital world, however, text processing software such as Microsoft Word allows for proofreaders to do their work at a much faster pace. With no need for manual modification, digitally editing a document is quicker and easier. Modifications can be made instantly, and can be revised and re-modified at anytime in the future. Automatic tools such as spellcheckers are also available, and help speed up the proofreading process. Moreover, comments and notes can be left on certain parts of a document to remind the proofreader of any actions to take later on, or to inform other proofreaders of important tasks. The ISO 5776 set of proofreading symbols seems to have faded away, as use for it has decreased significantly over the past few years. It is good, however, to take note of this set of symbols, so that the effort made by manual proofreaders reminds us how easy we have it with advances in technology.