The latest BS marks were published in 2005 but there is also an international set, published in 1983. It’s not wholly in accord with the British set, and this creates potential confusion.
After 30 years the ISO standard for proofreading marks is long overdue for revision, and after many hours of committee work by representatives worldwide, the new ISO 5776 is reaching the final stages. The good news for UK proofreaders is that it is largely based on BS 5261.
There are some new additions (to British eyes), but these are enhancements as they put right some important omissions in BS 5261. Some of these reflect changes in typesetting practices that have come about since the adoption of Unicode fonts, which can now handle special characters that are found in technical texts; for example, there are new proofreading symbols to
- insert a middle dot (a full point raised above the line)
- insert a non-breaking space (used between digits and units)
- add and remove ligatures (limitations in transferring word-processed files into desktop publishing software more or less eliminated such typographical niceties – now with Unicode they’re back with us again)
- indent only the first line of a paragraph by an en, an em or a specific measurement, the amount being written in a marginal box. This is much more manageable than the indent lines, which can be very fiddly in a limited space.
The new ISO standard also includes marked-up examples for alphabetic and logographic languages (Chinese and Japanese).
The next step
There is to be a ballot on the new standard by the member nations of ISO and, if successful, there will be a final draft before it becomes a full international standard in 2015. The SfEP’s representative on the ISO committee, David Penfold, says the UK mirror committee will then have to decide whether to replace BS 5261 with the new standard.