A Glossary of Terms - Know Your Onions!


Well, actually…

I am not referring here to a knowledge of the vegetable Allium cepa (also known as the bulb onion or common onion) or of any other related species! I am, of course, alluding to being experienced in or knowledgeable about a subject - although this might, admittedly, include onions!* For our purposes, there follows a glossary of terms commonly found in the world of writing, printing, editing, proofreading and the like. And, just as there are several ways to peel an onion, the descriptions or definitions of terms used here (mine) might well differ to what others would state. And so it is! All listings are alphabetical.

You may copy and use information from this glossary, but please consider acknowledging this page and my site as the source.

AP style

Editing conventions recommended by The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (usually called the AP Stylebook) — the primary English grammar style and usage guide for many American newspaper and magazine journalists.

APA style (American Psychological Association)

An academic citation style used in the social and behavioural sciences.

Appendix (appendixes | appendices)

A section or table of subsidiary matter at the end of a book or document.


A list of books (or sources) referred to or cited in scholarly work, typically printed as an appendix (part of the end matter/back matter). A list of the books of a specific author or publisher, or on a particular subject.


This is a term used to describe the reading of the ‘proof’ on its own merits by a proofreader, without them having access to the edited version of the document. The process: by way of example, in the case of book publishing, once the material has been copy-edited, a publisher will then send it to a designer or typesetter. Their work is then displayed or printed, and this is known as the ‘proof’ - proof that it is ready for publication. A proofreader will then usually work through the proof (either on paper or on screen) as an end-stage quality check and tidy-up, but they may not always have direct access to the copy-edited version of the document to check.


This refers to the British Standards Institution (BSI) marks (or symbols) for copy preparation and proof correction. The BSI's proof-correction marks are recognised across Britain and increasingly in many countries across the globe as an international standard. Although the marks are used less than they used to be, ‘BS 5261C:2005 Marks for Copy Preparation and Proof Correction’ is the essential tool for all British proofreaders and copy-editors when it comes to quickly, accurately and consistently marking up copy (an example of the use of the marks can be seen at the foot of this page).

CBE style (Council of Biology Editors)

An academic citation style recommended by the above and used in the sciences.

Chicago/Turabian style

An academic citation style used in the social sciences, business, history and the fine arts.


A quotation from or reference to a book, paper, or author, especially in a scholarly work. There are particular citation rules in academic writing that academic writers must adhere to. In the creation of their papers, presentations, dissertations and other projects, an academic writer must document and credit the author and publisher for their original intellectual and creative work when accessing and using their source material. This also enables the reader of the academic writer’s work to locate and consult the same source(s).

Even when the academic writer is using their own words, they must still document and credit the source of any material created by another which assisted them in the formulation of their ideas and words. The proper use of citations openly acknowledges and pays tribute to the source material of another. Furthermore, careful adherence to citation guidelines stipulated by an academic writer’s discipline, college, or university, avoids the risk of plagiarism, often considered to be a severe breach of academic conduct by professional bodies and educational institutions. See also ‘Citation styles’ below.

Citation styles

In academic writing, a citation style dictates all that must be included in a citation, detailing how the information is to be ordered and formatted, including punctuation use. An academic citation will typically include the name of the author or authors (in a defined manner), the date of their work, the details of the publishing company, the name (title) of the journal or publication, and perhaps a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). A citation is a way of giving credit to individuals for their intellectual and creative work used to support an academic (or non-academic) writer’s own research and work. The citation style often depends on a particular academic discipline’s requirements. Many common styles are shown elsewhere in this glossary. Consistency is key — whatever is selected, the same citation style should be used throughout.

Clean up

Incorporating an author’s responses to copy-editing that has been undertaken into a final hard copy or computer file.


A document (or manuscript) that is due to be typeset.

Copy-editing (copy-edit, or copyedit)

The preparation of a document for presentation in a printed or web form. Copy-edit is a term used to describe editing of a text in which errors of style, consistency and usage, and accuracy and punctuation are corrected.

Copy-editor (or copyeditor)

An individual who edits a document using the skills of copy-editing. ‘Copy-editor’ and ‘copyeditor’ are both interchangeable as nouns to describe such a person, and use is a matter of personal choice. I prefer the former.


The exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator (creator) for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.

Developmental editing

Developmental editing is a more specialised form of writing support that is utilised before or during the production of a publishable manuscript — especially in the field of non-fiction writing. Developmental editing involves significant structuring (or restructuring) of a manuscript’s language. Due to the more advanced nature of this form of editing, i.e. the level of work and time required, it justly ranks as more costly.

Developmental editor

A type of language professional who is knowledgeable and skilled in the provision of developmental editing services.

Edit (editing)

To prepare written material for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it (such as removing unnecessary or inappropriate content).


An individual who is in charge of and determines the final content of a newspaper, magazine, or multi-author book.

Em dash

The name for the — (long hyphen) character. In manuscripts, the em dash is often typed as -- (two hyphens).

En dash

The name for the - (short/single hyphen) character.


A note printed at the end of a book or document, or at the end of a section of either.

End matter (also known as back matter)

Material at the end of a manuscript or book, such as appendices, endnotes, glossary, bibliography, or index.


Self-employed and hired to work for different people or companies on particular assignments. Earning one’s living as a freelance.

Freelancer (or freelance)

An individual who works freelance. ‘Freelancer’ and ‘freelance’ are both interchangeable as nouns to describe such a person, and use is a matter of personal choice. I prefer the former.


An alphabetical list of words relating to a specific subject, text, or dialect, with explanations. A brief dictionary. You’re reading a glossary now of course!


The whole system and structure of a language or of languages in general, usually taken as consisting of syntax and morphology (including inflexions) and sometimes also phonology and semantics.

Harvard style (often called the ‘Author-Date System')

An academic citation style using a parenthetical referencing system. The method uses partial citations — for example “ ” are enclosed within parentheses and embedded in the text, either within or after a sentence. They are accompanied by a full, alphabetised list of citations in an end section, usually titled “references”, “reference list”, “works cited”, or “end-text citations”. Parenthetical referencing can be used in place of footnote citations. The Harvard style is attractive to both authors and readers of academic texts — it is economical to write, as the same material is not duplicated in a footnote and the bibliography.

Index (indexing | indexes | indices)

An index is an ‘ordered arrangement of entries … designed to enable users to locate information in a document or specific documents in a collection’ (ISO 999, 1996). A document may be a book, periodical, film, website or any other information source. See also ‘Society of Indexers’ below.

MHRA style (Modern Humanities Research Association)

The MHRA Style Guide: A Handbook for Authors, Editors, and Writers of Theses is an academic style guide most widely used in the arts and humanities in the UK.

MLA style (Modern Language Association of America)

An academic citation style used in the humanities, such as for languages and literature.


A book, document, or piece of music written by hand rather than typed or printed. Also, an author’s handwritten or typed text that has not yet been published. Origin — late 16th century: from medieval Latin manuscriptus, from manu ‘by hand’ + scriptus ‘written’.

Mark-up (or Markup)

The process or result of correcting text in preparation for printing. Mark-up is undertaken using a recognised standard of ‘marks’ — such as BS5261, the British Standards Institution (BSI) marks (or symbols) for copy preparation and proof correction (see ‘BS5261’ above). The mark-up is normally made on paper, but can also be made on a PDF (Portable Document Format), a file format for capturing and sending documents in exactly the predetermined format (See also ‘Portable Document Format’ below). A form of mark-up can also be achieved on an online or offline word processing document by using ‘Track Changes’ — an editing command that is commonly used when you need to keep track of any changes made to the original document. Track Changes are possible in both Microsoft Word and Apple Pages; however, the ‘mark-up’ is entirely dissimilar to BS5261. Note: I do not currently offer a PDF document mark-up service.


The abbreviation for a manuscript.

Orphan (orphans)

The first line of a paragraph that appears alone at the bottom of a page. See also ‘Widows’ below.



Plagiarism (plagiarist | plagiaristic)

The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. Origin — early 17th century: from Latin plagiarius ‘kidnapper’ (from plagium ‘a kidnapping’, from Greek plagion) + -ism.

Portable Document Format (PDF)

A file format developed by Adobe® in the 1990s to present documents, including text formatting and images, in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems. Based on the PostScript language, each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout flat document, including the text, fonts, vector graphics, raster images and other information needed to display it.


In printing terms, a trial impression of a page, taken from type or film and used for making corrections before final printing.


An individual who reads the printer’s proofs or other written or printed material and marks any errors, using an agreed standard of marks to signify the changes made (see ‘BS5261’ above). Many proofreaders find they identify more errors on paper than they do on screen, but proofs may be read and marked in either medium. A proofreader looks for consistency in usage and presentation, and for accuracy in text, images and layout, but is not responsible for the authors or copy-editors work.





Research editor

The individual who is responsible for verifying the facts in the text before it is printed in hard copy or to the web. Also referred to as the fact-checker.

Society of Indexers

The Society of Indexers promotes indexing, the quality of indexes and the profession of indexing.  Founded in March 1957, it is the only autonomous professional body for indexers in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and membership is open to any person who is or intends to be directly involved in indexing.

Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)

Formed in November 1988, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders is a professional organisation based in the UK for editors and proofreaders — the people who strive to make text accurate and readable. It has three primary aims: to promote high editorial standards; to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders; and, to encourage the use of services offered by SfEP members.

Style guide/style sheet

A manual detailing the house style of a particular publisher, publication, business or individual. The style guide or sheet will mention permissible and non-permissible conditions that are expected to be followed either all the time or under certain specified conditions. Any branding will typically form part of a style guide or sheet, as appropriate.

Terms and conditions (T&Cs)

A contractual term is ‘any provision forming part of a contract’. Each term gives rise to a contractual obligation, a breach of which can give rise to litigation. Not all terms are stated expressly, and some carry less legal gravity as they are peripheral to the objectives of the contract. Conditions signify the state of something concerning its appearance, quality, or working order. The terms and conditions on a website, therefore, contain the whole agreement between the parties (i.e. the contractual relationship between the website provider and the user of that website) relating to its subject matter. The T&Cs usually refer to and include the privacy policy and any cookies policy as forming integral parts of the whole agreement. Other T&Cs and policies may exist on a website that would equally form part of any contractual relationship between the website provider and users, such as terms and conditions for the supply of goods and/or services, and any returns policy for goods, etc.

Track changes

An editing command that is commonly used when you need to keep track of any changes made to an original online or offline word processing document. Track Changes are possible in both Microsoft Word and Apple Pages; however, the ‘mark-up’ is entirely dissimilar to BS5261. See also ‘BS5261’ and ‘Mark-up’ above.


A typed copy of a text.

Typeset (Typesetting)

To arrange the type or process the data for text that is to be printed.


An individual who typesets text.


Abbreviated term for a typographical error.


The last line of a paragraph that appears alone at the top of a page. Sometimes also refers to an orphan. See also ‘Orphan’ above.

‘Widows’ and ‘Orphans’

See ‘Orphan’ and ‘Widow’ respectively.

Citation — Parts of this glossary have been amended from the article by Nordquist, Richard. (2018, October 1). Key Copyediting Terms. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/key-copyediting-terms-1692372. Thanks also to the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and Wikipedia, from whom amended material has been drawn for the completion of this glossary.

This is a dynamic glossary — it is reviewed monthly to check accuracy and readability, making necessary amendments, and adding new content. This glossary was last reviewed on 7 November 2018.


* The term 'know your onions' has been variously attributed to:

  • The English grammarian and lexicographer C. T. (Charles Talbut) Onions (the fourth editor of the Oxford English Dictionary from 1895 and creator of The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, 1966, which was published a year after his death).

  • Mr S. G. Onions, who created sets of coins which were issued to English schools from 1843 onwards. These were teaching aids intended to help children learn £.s.d. (pounds, shillings and pence). What fun!

  • Neither of the two gentlemen above - not as originators of the phrase at least. It appears to be a wacky American phrase with many references to it in print in the USA from the 1920s onward, but none in the UK or elsewhere until the middle of the century. Hey ho.

 C. T. (Charles Talbut) Onions

C. T. (Charles Talbut) Onions

Click on me! A simple example of BS5261 marks in action. Courtesy of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).



Create a membership account and benefit from an 8% discount on your shop order - on any service or product, at any time!*

Click on the outline figure on the navigation bar to sign up!

(*Bespoke services excluded)

(Affiliate advert)