Event Review: Introduction to Applying Proofreading Markup to PDFs

Written by Ellen Michelle Koehler; copy edited by Emma Caplan

Review of the workshop Introduction to Applying Proofreading Markup to PDFs with Barbara Tomlin (offered by Editors BC on March 19, 2016)

Although Barbara Tomlin’s workshop on applying PDF markup was directed toward new editors like myself, there were quite a few more experienced editors and proofreaders who attended, showing that with new technologies (and upgrades to programs) come new ways to mark up text. Even the experienced editors had questions and followed along closely as Barbara told us all about the best practices of applying proofreading markup to PDFs.

Before the workshop

About a week before the workshop happened, instructions were emailed to participants about which PDF reader would be used in the workshop so everybody could follow along seamlessly. Along with the program recommendation were specific, detailed instructions on how to download the basic proofreading stamps and add them into the program, if you didn’t have them already. These directions were easy to follow, and the marks were downloaded and ready to go in no time.

Knowing the difference between types of markup and when to use which type

In the workshop, Barbara went over two different types of markup that are available for use on PDFs. The first was the stamps we were instructed to load onto our computers prior to the workshop, which matched the proofreading markup that one would normally use when proofreading on hard copy. The other markup was using highlighting and arrow functions combined with various styles of text boxes to write more detailed responses to edits. Most people in the workshop appeared to be more comfortable with the stamps because they were already used to the marks from proofreading hard copy, but as a new editor I had not had much experience with either style, so learning both was definitely helpful.

What happens when the PDF did not come from a Word document?

This was the biggest takeaway for me from this workshop. I thought that all PDF documents were the same, but boy oh boy, was I wrong. Barbara spent quite a bit of time explaining the difference between PDFs that were created from Word documents and those that were taken from screen shots or other sources. It turns out that with the latter type of PDF, there are a lot of functions that do not work as they would with a Word document PDF. Some of these functions include highlighting and searching for text.

NEVER hide your markup…unless you have to

One thing that was repeated throughout the entire workshop was to never hide your markup. This seemed quite obvious to me, until some participants related events where their clients had specifically asked them to use sticky notes. Upon hearing this, Barbara appeared to cringe and explained that there are many problems with the sticky notes function in PDF readers, one being that your comments become hidden. While stamps, highlighting, and comment boxes all hit you straight in the face as you scroll down the document, the sticky notes (and a few other markup tools) can appear hidden if the user is scrolling too quickly through the document. However, she conceded that if the client asks for it, you must comply (but not necessarily without a discussion), and if you must use these hidden tools, try using them in such a way that they are easily visible—such as using the “Open All Pop-Ups” function.

All in all, as a new editor I found this workshop highly valuable in learning the dos and do nots of PDF markup. And, in talking to other workshop participants, it appeared to be productive and valuable for the more experienced editors as well.

Ellen Michelle Koehler is a soon-to-be graduate of SFU in English with a focus on publishing as well as a current student of SFU’s Editing Certificate program.

Emma Caplan edits client-facing documents and takes pride in making them sales-ready and reader-friendly. She has additional experience in quality control and proofreading. For more than six years, Emma has worked in the business consulting and professional services sectors, producing documents such as reports, proposals, and project qualifications. She is currently enrolled in SFU’s Editing Certificate program, a complement to her bachelor’s degree in business management. In her free time, Emma enjoys hiking, travelling, and creating jewelry. Connect with her on LinkedIn, or browse through her shop on Etsy.

2 thoughts on “Event Review: Introduction to Applying Proofreading Markup to PDFs

  1. Tara Cunningham says:

    Hi Michelle, Thanks for this. It is so informative and helpful! Can you tell me what reader was recommended, and can you include a link to instructions on how to download the proofreading stamps and add them to the program? I wish I was in the city to partake in some of this, but I appreciate this blog. Thanks is advance for any help you can give. Cheers, Tara Cunningham, in Nelson, BC


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