In this article, I show you how to create your own digital proofreading stamps for PDF proofreading and editing.
I’m based in the UK so I’ll be referring to the British Standards Institution’s (BSI) BS 5261C:2005 'Marks for Copy Preparation and Proof Correction' throughout this article (readers can buy a hard-copy list of these marks from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders).
You might be used to seeing different symbols to indicate the same instructions. That’s because, depending on where you live, different standards may apply.
Compare, e.g., the Canadian Translation Bureau and BSI marks for a selection of instructions:
What matters is not which proof-correction language you use, but what your client requires.
Recap of existing digital resources
If you want to use the BS 5261C:2005 proof-correction marks to annotate a PDF, visit Roundup: PDF Proofreading Stamps (quick-access links). This provides the access links to a full set of downloadable PDF proofreading stamps in black, blue, and red, as well as the installation instructions.
US stamps files are available via the Copyediting-L site, under the Resources tab. Scroll down to 'Diana Stirling’s (2008) editing marks for PDF documents (Zip documents)'.
Finally, search the Editing Tools section of Katharine O’Moore-Klopf’s Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base using the key words 'PDF Editing Stamps'. This will bring up a number of other useful resources.
Why might I need to make my own stamps?
You might wish to create your own stamps for three reasons:
When we modify standard stamps in this way, we save time – every second we save stamping only one symbol rather than two adds up to significant increases in productivity.
Creating your own stamps
There are two ways to go about creating your own customized stamps.
You can using a free snipping tool to copy a mark that you’ve drawn, typed, or found online. If I want to create a new stamp – for example, the 'change is to are' instruction mentioned above – I can use my PDF editor’s comment-and-markup tools to type the word 'are' and stamp a Replace symbol after it.
Then I simply click on my snipping tool, select 'New', and drag the cursor over the marks I’ve made. I then save this as a PNG, GIF, or JPEG. The image is now available for upload into my PDF Editor’s stamps palette.
In Windows 10, the snipping tool looks like this:
Where your snipping tool is located will depend on which version of Windows you’re using.
The advantage of using a snipping tool is that it’s very efficient. I’ve pinned my onboard Windows snipping tool to the task bar at the bottom of my screen, so it’s always accessible. If you are using an operating system that doesn’t include a snipping tool, there are of alternatives available online.
There are disadvantages to using this method:
Using the snipping tool to create stamps is recommended if you need a quick solution and you don’t think you’ll need to use the new symbol in future jobs. If you do think you’ll use your new symbol time and time again, it might be worth considering the second method.
You can use a DTP program such as Microsoft Publisher, Adobe InDesign, and QuarkXPress, or a graphics program like CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator. I use MS Publisher because it’s included in my MS Office bundle. I’ve also found it quite easy to use – this is partly because it’s entry-level DTP software and partly because it’s an MS product so the functionality is quite similar to that of MS Word.
Once you’ve drawn your new symbol in your DTP program, you need to save the document as a PDF. This can usually be done very simply, using the 'Save as' function. The image will then be ready for upload into your PDF editor’s stamps palette.
The disadvantage of using this method is that it requires greater investment in time in the short run. I’d only recommend it if you are creating a stamp that you think will be useful for many jobs to come.
The advantages of going down the DTP route are:
Using a DTP/graphics program is more time consuming but gives a more professional finish and is worth it if you think you’ll use the new symbol in multiple jobs.
Saving and installing your new stamps
If you have used the snipping tool to create a new GIF, JPEG, or PNG stamp, you can save it wherever you wish. I usually choose the Downloads folder. Then open your PDF editor and upload the stamp.
Installing snipped images to PDF-XChange
Installing snipped images to Adobe Acrobat (v. 9)
Installing snipped images to Adobe Reader (v. XI)
I haven’t found a way to import snipped stamps into Reader; the only option is to upload stamps that have been saved as a PDF, which isn’t possible with the Windows snipping tool at least. Given that PDF-XChange is still a very affordable editor, with outstanding functionality, I’d recommend trying it as an alternative to the free Adobe Reader and the rather more expensive Acrobat Professional.
Saving and installing DTP-created images
If you have used DTP software and saved your stamps in PDF format, you may need to save into a specific folder. The installation process is a little more complicated and will depend on the PDF editor you are using. If you are using PDF-XChange, Adobe Acrobat Professional, or Adobe Reader, carefully read the installation instructions I’ve provided on The Editing Blog.
Related reading …
If you are new to PDF proofreading, you might find the following links of interest:
Louise Harnby is a line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in working with crime, mystery, suspense and thriller writers.
She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a member of ACES, a Partner Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and co-hosts The Editing Podcast.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Fiction Editor & Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, connect via Facebook and LinkedIn, and check out her books and courses.
'Louise uses her expertise to hone a story until it's razor sharp, while still allowing the author’s voice to remain dominant.'
'I wholeheartedly recommend her services ... Just don’t hire her when I need her.'
J B Turner
'Sincere thanks for a beautiful and elegant piece of work. First class.'
'What makes her stand out and shine is her ability to immerse herself in your story.'
'A million thanks – your mark-up is perfect, as always.'