What Does "Stet" Mean?
Stet is a Latin word that is widely used to refer to an editor's mark that means "let it stand." It is commonly used in settings involving proofreading, such as printing and publishing, and is generally written next to or above a previous change, indicating that the change should not be made and that the original language should stand. When properly pronounced, it rhymes with "bet."
Usually, the word stet is used as an imperative verb, meaning that the writer is using it to instruct the reader. When written directly at the correction site, the word is almost always used alone. In conversation or when used in a separate document, however, it may begin a sentence. For example, an editor might verbally tell a writer to "stet the second paragraph on page three."
As with many indicators used in literary fields, stet is a Latin term. Specifically, it is the present subjunctive third person singular of the Latin word stare, which means "to stand." It came into use as a common publisher's mark in the mid-1700s.
Many times, the word stet is used to indicate that a letter, word, phrase, sentence or section should remain, even though the editor's markups indicate that it should be deleted. This can happen for a number of reasons. The editor might simply have made a mistake, might change his mind, or might find out later that a fact thought to be incorrect is, indeed correct.
Stet can also be used to indicate that another type of change can be ignored. Common editor's marks allow a proofreader to tell the writer to capitalize a word; convert a capital letter to a lowercase letter; insert a letter, word or item of punctuation; insert spaces; or check the spelling of a word. Stet can be used to supersede any such correction marks.
It is a common misconception that stet is an abbreviation rather than an actual word. Technically, it should be written in lowercase letters, but some editors and proofreaders choose to capitalize the first letter or to capitalize the entire word. Any of these variations will be recognized by someone familiar with publisher's marks.
Most editor's marks, including stet, are taught in basic journalism classes. They were developed before the advent of electronic documents and, therefore, before features such as track changes were available. In the publishing tradition, editing marks are applied directly to a printed version of the document, usually in red ink. While electronic documents have changed methodology in many ways, this tradition, called "redlining," remains in common practice.
More specifically, the type of construction that is being employed when using the subjunctive to give a command is known as the "iussive (or jussive - it's pronounced yussive) subjunctive." This is commonly used for first and third person Latin commands.
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