Monthly Archives: September 2013

Dear Writer,
If you’ve never run across “dele” or “stet” in your writing, you:
1) are just beginning to write.
2) haven’t had anything proofread or edited yet.
3) are a genius who needs no editor to crank at her… sorry, “offer good advice.”
(Yes, I just used a noun as a unique verb. It’s a heck of a lot hipper and cleverer than “snuck.”)

I fall in none of the above categories. My earliest edited writing looked like someone sneaked—(dele “snuck” from your vocab)—my writing into an illegal cockfight, dropped it in the ring, and let the muddy-clawed buggers have at it. But I learned from these experiences…after I asked the editor to explain the chicken tracks.

A dele, or deleatur, is a proofreading symbol used to indicate something that should be deleted. It’s said to come from a form of the letter “d” in an old German script.

For Newbies, dele can look like a sloppy cursive capital “L” or a cute little oval head with one arm pointing down at your mistake, while the other hangs at its…nonexistent side. I’m sure that’s perfectly clear, however, to further complicate matters, there are as many variations of this symbol as there are editors.

Moving along, “stet” is from Latin, meaning, “let it stand.” It seems to have originated because, unlike bullheaded umpires and referees, proofreaders and editors are allowed to change their minds after they ruin your piece.

Stet is a complicated little device for accomplishing such a simple thing—leaving the writer’s words the hell alone! Stet begins with a circle around the word(s) or concepts on which the editor did a one-eighty. Then the word stet is written above or beside the goofed edit. Wait! There’s more. We’ll toss in a free potato peeler and free shipping! (No, sorry. Too much TV.)

But there IS more to stet. The selection must also be underscored by dashes or dots. All clear? Good. Now that you’ve memorized that…fagedaboudit!

For stet, your editor might decide to simply circle a tick in your manuscript. Don’t run out and get tested for Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease. It’s not that kind of tick. It’s simply a check mark in a circle. Personally, I’d prefer MCIWW near anything about which the editor decided I was right. That’s my stet of choice: “Mea Culpa. I Was Wrong.”

Oh. Newbies? Did you know there’s a whole sheet of proofreading marks to learn?
But take heart; if it’s a computer file, an editor may just insert long-winded reasons why you’re an illiterate idiot who should take up pottery or basket weaving.