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What Is a Deleatur?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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A deleatur is a symbol used in proofreading and editing that indicates that a section of a text needs to be removed or deleted. In appearance, it resembles a letter “d” from an archaic script and is fairly unclear in meaning except to those who recognize it. Although the deleatur serves a useful function, it has been replaced by some editors and proofreaders with simply striking through a line or section of text. This is especially true in digital print and text formats in which the symbol can be difficult to create and is often seen as unnecessary.

There is no letter in the English language that quite resembles a deleatur, since it is derived from an old and unused script. It can appear much like the symbol for a German penny, however, which stems from a similar source. The letter “d” in the same script was used to stand for denarius, Roman monetary units that spread into Germany. A deleatur, also called a “dele,” is typically used by professional proofreaders, though some editors are also familiar with the symbol. It is usually written in the margins of a text beside a section that needs to be deleted, which is indicated through circling or underlining.

Some proofreaders prefer to use a strikethrough rather than a deleatur for indication of sections that should be deleted. A strikethrough is simply a horizontal line that goes through a word or passage. One of the problems with strikethrough notation, however, is that it can be easily missed by a writer who is revising work based on the notes provided by a proofreader. Some editors use a different color to strikethrough, such as red ink on a selection of black text. To ensure notes are seen by a writer, the use of both a deleatur and lines through text is fairly common, as the symbol in the margin ensures it is noticed and the section for deletion is struck through.

Need for a deleatur is likely to be eliminated as editing and proofreading are increasingly performed through purely digital means. A proofreader can simply select a section of text and highlight it or otherwise notate the need for removal without a deleatur in the margin. The medium of digital text often allows these types of indications to be more visible than a simple strikethrough on paper since different colors and shading can easily be used in digital text. As new technologies evolve, such as digital paper solutions and computer tablets, the ways in which proofreaders read and revise work prior to publication are developing alongside them.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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