User:Bess\Proofing skills

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This page provides some useful tips and hacks for better proofreading.

My name is really Bess, and I am passionate about helping new proofers to work productively and enjoyably as soon as possible.

My newbies have asked me some very interesting questions and I have developed a set of user-friendly explanations for most of them. You can find them below.

If you have a question or comment, please send me a pm (private message): Bess


If you get a pm (private message) notification by email, please go to your inbox (Activity Hub ; green bar at the top; Inbox to the right) and open it. Then the sender will know that you have seen it. This way you will also be able to click on any links provided.

Depending on the number of new proofreaders, the BEGIN projects may take some days to complete P1 (Proofreading round 1) and get to the mentors in P2 (Proofreading round 2). Please take this as an apology if you have been waiting more than two or three days.

If you are working on a P1 BEGIN project, you won't be able to do more than six pages in any one BEGIN project. This limit does not apply to other (non-BEGIN) projects. The limit is designed to leave some pages for other new proofreaders, as well as to make it easier for mentors. In any case, most people make their errors in the first few pages, maybe correcting some as they go. Usually they repeat the same mistakes in subsequent pages. You won't be able to return to BEGIN projects once you have done more than 40 (currently) P1 pages in total.

The BEGIN projects are designed to focus newcomer attention on some basic proofing (jargon for proofreading) skills, mostly those highlighted in the Project Comments on the Project Page. The mentors, therefore, will particularly look at the handling of page headers, end-of-line and end-of-page hyphens, dashes, and scannos (errors introduced when the page scans are turned into text by OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software).


When you are starting to get a grip on what the Proofreading Guidelines say, and you have read these comments, you should be able to zip through the easier proofreading quizzes - you can find a link on the P1 project listing page, near the top, under Just getting started? Please do them as soon as possible.

What is the proofer's role in the whole process?

The proofer is the second in the chain of procedures that gets a publication to Project Gutenberg. The first step is for someone to obtain, or create, scans of the pages in a form suitable for entry into our system; these scans are put through some OCR process that produces the text pages for proofers to check.

The output text pages from the proofing process (there are three proofing rounds: P1, P2 and P3) go to the Formatters (F1 and F2).

Now the Post-Processing starts; the project passes from the Project Manager (PM) to the PP (Post-processor) (they are often the same person, but needn't be). The separate pages are stitched together and the text is transcribed to whichever encodings are appropriate for posting the project to Project Gutenberg.

The PP has a keen interest in the work done by the proofers and formatters. S/he will have to sort out problems noticed in the previous stages. For this there is strong reliance on the notes written in the Project Discussion (PD), Project Comments (PC) and left in the text itself by proofers. Notes in the text take various forms: the most common are, for example, [**Pn:missing period?] (where n stands for 1,2 or 3). The asterisks to mark end-of-line or end-of-page hyphens and end-of-page em-dashes are also proofers' notes in a different format. Square brackets are also used for some other purposes, and the PP will pick them up for special attention. There is more below about how to write prize-winning notes (just kidding about the prizes).


Check your diffs

Start with the activity hub. On the green bar near the top, to the left, you will find My Projects; click on that to give you a list of the projects you’ve already worked on.

In this list, the second column (Current State) shows where the project is in the chain of activity - very useful information. For example, if the Current State says P3: Waiting, it has completed the second proofing round. Click on the name of the project you want to check.

This gives you the usual Project Page. There is more about the Project Page below. Scroll down a little to find the link to Just my pages. It takes you to a table: Page Detail. In column 2 you see the page number - if you click on this it shows you the original scan page. In column 5 there’s the link to diff, (short for difference, meaning the differences between versions). Clicking on this link takes you to a page which shows the changes P1 made to the original OCR text. Column 9 gives you the diff link to how P2 changed P1's output. Here you can see what was done to your work, page by page. Checking my diffs should help. Just a note of caution: sometimes others will "correct" your work though you think it is perfectly fine. It is quite acceptable to send that proofer a pm asking them for the reason they changed something - you might still learn something new.

For some purposes the diffs might not be the most helpful – you can link to the actual text saved in each round under the column text.

Read the random rules

On each of the main work pages (P1, P2, P3 and F1) you will find a different random rule every day. After you’ve done ten pages, they appear for you!

Read them, even if you don’t remember them. Somehow . . . after a . . . while . . . the Guidelines will start to sound familiar . . .

Get more help

When you are reading a message in the DP interface, you can reply with a pm (private message) by clicking on the reply button; it will be somewhere on the message page, depending on your chosen board style – you may have to scroll down. This will open a reply window.

You can also send a private message (pm) to dp-feedback, specifying your level, the project name and page numbers you need help on.


The Project Page

The Project Page is the critical resource when you are working on a particular project. Apart from all the useful information, look particularly at these:

The top of the page (just above the table) where the current state of the project is explained. This state changes from time to time, and may affect whether you are allowed to work on the project or not.

In the table, the link to Discuss this project is very important. Not only can you see what has been discussed by others working on this project, but, even better, this is where you post your messages about project-specific problems you come across. It is important that you read the Project Discussion before working on a project – it is also remarkably educational.

Below the table is Project comments - essential reading, as this is where the PM (project manager) will say the important things you will need while working on this particular project. It might be that the PM will want you to handle certain things differently from what the proofreading guidelines specify; or s/he might mention things the guidelines don't cover.

Our projects vary a great deal, and guidelines can't cover every case - that is why they are guide lines.

DP Walkthrough

Give me a road map, already! Or, you might like the Walkthrough. I also found this lovely story on our blog

Primary Rule

It is essential to understand the Primary Rule – study it carefully. In any case, when there is an issue you can't find out about, the best is to follow the scan, in other words reproduce what the original has. Leaving a proofer's note as well is wise.

Frequently Asked Questions

On the wiki Main Page you will see a link to Beginners' Questions. As you proceed you might like to see more examples. There's also much fun to be had reading some of the questions in these topics; it will take you to a whole list of discussions about proofreading in general. And how about this interesting wiki page?

Personal statistics

In case you like to keep score – on the project listing pages for the various rounds, to the right roughly in the centre, you’ll see Personal Statistics: with all kinds of information, including your current rank: which changes mysteriously from time to time.


How does proofreading differ from editing?

Newbies (jargon for a new person on the block) sometimes don't appreciate the difference between what we do at DP and what other editors and proofreaders do.

In plain proofreading you are usually looking at only one text, and checking that for errors, etc.

In proofing for DP you have to compare two texts – and you have to be slow and painstaking, comparing letter for letter. This takes some getting used to, but it becomes easy quite quickly – just hang in there! Remember that the first version of the text is almost untouched by human hand – having been produced by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, impressive but not perfect.

The first job is to get every letter, number and symbol the author wrote correctly into text. (This agrees with DP’s Primary Rule: Don’t change what the author wrote). For our own convenience, we also preserve the line breaks, as far as that is compatible with sorting out hyphenations and clothing em-dashes. The imperfect scan is the first pass, but often contains scannos – introduced by the scanning process. They are like typos which are errors that exist in the original publication.

From the scan, the OCR produces the first version. Then proofers get involved: the second version is produced by P1 proofers; the third version by P2 proofers, and the fourth by P3 proofers. The idea is that, by then, there are no more errors left! The few things we are supposed to change are the first you should learn about.

Our very own typeface

To help you find the nasties, you should consider using DP's very special typeface DP Sans Mono. It's not known for its beauty, but it sure helps to catch scannos! If you want to use it don't forget to choose it in your preferences (Activity Hub: green bar prefs to the right). There are two tabs, you'll want Proofreading, although General has some useful stuff too. Happy experimenting!

Word check

You can access Word Check from the proofing interface, at the bottom. Give it a try; you should note that it is much more than a simple spell-checker. You will see a link to wordcheck help when you open the Word Check interface. For more, see wordcheck.

Leaving notes for those who follow

In cases where you cannot make a decision, or when you have noticed something you don’t want to have slip through the net, you can leave a proofer's note. These notes give valuable information to the post-processor who finalises the text before it becomes an e-book. It also alerts subsequent rounds to problems that have already been encountered. Some examples:

she wanted to speak to the moster[**P1: master?] or

However.[**,] the master was not home.

These notes are not removed by others, and you should not remove those you see, even if you know the answer. If the scan says:

He admired the colour of her eyes,

and you see

He admired the colour[**P1:typo for color] of her eyes,

then the most you can do is

He admired the colour[**P1:typo for color:P2:colour is correct] of her eyes,

Make sure you use the correct format for the notes, and keep your notes short - but not cryptic! Another excellent option, if you think you have found a general problem that might occur on other pages in this project, is to leave a message in the Project Discussion so that other proofers, formatters and the PM can see it. Errors and How to write notes have more.


The first time you come across them can be a bit frightening, but they are generally all of a pattern, so you can just follow the advice in footnotes. Always check the Project Comments thread, the Project Manager might well have something special in mind.

Checking on your old work

This link helps with using Project Check. If you go to my projects from the Activity Hub you will get the names of your latest projects. Click on the name you want. Even if it is now unavailable for you to work on, you can still go down and click on Just my pages. In the Diff column under the round after the one you worked on, you can click on an appropriate diff to get some useful info.

Going back to make changes to pages you worked on before

Go to the Just my pages table (as explained above). In the last column you will see Edit. Click on that to open the usual edit window. But you can likely do it only for a few hours - some projects move on rather quickly. If it doesn’t say Edit, then you can’t change it any more. This works just like the first time you edited it; so you have to hit save again if you want to keep your changes!

Accented letters

Accented letters are encountered quite frequently in texts with foreign words or phrases, or where foreign names occur. The letter with the appropriate accent can usually be obtained from the character picker in the bottom corner of the proofing page. There are several buttons; click on the one you need and pick the letter from the given selection! But beware – if the phrase is printed in italics, it can be tricky to see which accent is intended.

There's more about these cases under Diacritical marks

Ligatures: a+e and o+e

These two 2-letter combinations occur in many of our texts. We can find them in the character picker at the bottom of the proofing page. Click on A; which will show you the the æ letter to pick, and clicking on O; gives the œ letter. More can be found in the wiki under ligatures.

Clicking on links

I use Firefox. When I do a right-click on a link, I get a little pop-up menu from which I usually choose to open a new tab. Very useful.

. . . and what do we hate most?

When proofers make changes to the author's work without leaving notes. Remember: we make the text look like the scan, not how we'd like the scan to look.

"I won't mind your giving me advice if you don't mind my not taking it."

More advice