Codes used to mark up drafts


The tables below explain comments that may have been written on the hard copy of your draft.  Note that these comments are often illustrative.  I will typically note representative places where an error exists or where a correction needs to be made (such as footnotes or pinpoints needed, or a grammatical problem exists).  However, it is the student’s responsibility to make corrections globally and to make sure the entire paper is corrected.

Common and miscellaneous abbreviations

Also see proofreading symbols noted in Fajans page 102.

# Space needed, either between words, between sentences, etc.
PP Pinpoint needed.
FN Need footnote to provide attribution to source or supportive authority for legal or factual assertion.
DN Means “does not.”
TAN Means “text accompanying note.”
? Means “does not equal” or “is not the same as.”
> Means “more than.”
< Means “less than.”
~ The congruence sign, means “analogous to.”
SO Spell out
Tense Tense of language is improperly shifting between past & present.


¶ or ¶¶ Either a lengthy paragraph that should be broken up, or a suggestion for a place to break for a new paragraph.
Name Put name on first page of paper.
Filename Put name in filename.
Title Select a title for your paper.
Numbering Pages should be numbered for ease of reference.
SS Something that ought to be single-spaced, such as block quotes in main text or footnotes.
BQ or Block Use block quote, single-spaced, indented further on both sides.  Block quotes should reproduce the paragraph structure in the original.
> 49 Quotes of more than 49 words must be in block quote.


Bluebooking, footnoting, attribution, research


Move to FN Suggestion that material is a distraction from other material in main text, and might be worth moving into FN.
SM CAPS You should use large and small caps per the BB, typically for journal names or names & authors of books.
Ital. Use italics.
Rom. or Roman Use Roman (i.e., normal) text and not formatted text.
or Sub. Hist.
Did you provide subsequent history for a case citation? The case may have been affirmed or reversed on appeal.
Period inside of a circle The sentence must end with a period. All footnotes must end in a period.
Id. not Id Id. always has a period after it.


Frag. Sentence fragment, not a full sentence.
or Their or They
References to “they” or “their” rather than “it” or “its.”  Although done commonly in spoken English, it is ungrammatical to use “they” or “their” to refer to a singular person or an entity. For example, “The corporation decided that they would issue their new stock” should be “The corporation decided that it would issue its new stock.”  It is similarly ungrammatical to say “The law student registered for their classes.”  It should be “The law student registered for her or his class,” or “Law students registered for their classes.”
Its not It’s The word “its” is possessive (e.g., “The government increased its tax rate.”)  The word “it’s” is a contraction of “it is” (e.g., “The government said it’s going to increase taxes.”).  Proper usage: “The government said it’s going to increase its tax rate.”
SP Spelling error.
GR Grammatical error.
or Hyperbole
Paper may be taking an advocacy tone, by using loaded words such as “egregious,” “sinister,” or the like. A general rule is that academic writing tries to avoid hyperbole and instead maintains a neutral tone.  If you believe something is egregious, then explain why it is so, rather than simply asserting that it is egregious.  Show, don’t tell. 


? Means that I do not understand something. Something is unclear.
C/A or Counter-arg. Is paper considering counterarguments? Is there an obvious counterargument?
RM Roadmap needed or inadequate.
Mini-RM Part or subsection of a paper needs a miniature roadmap to tell reader what to expect in that part or subsection.
II or III or II.A, etc. You should use Part and Subpart numbering.  The numbering should be used in the roadmap, as well as in the paper itself.
RQ or RQ ? analysis Paper is asking a rhetorical question rather than providing analysis of the issue. Your job as a scholar is to ask questions and to answer them. If the question is worth asking, then it is also worth trying to answer.
Self-contr. Discussion appears to contradict itself.
Make arg. To state that an argument exists or might be made is not the same thing as making the argument and analyzing it.  If an argument is sufficiently important that you think something could be argued, then make the argument and assess its merits.
Begs Q, Circular, or circle w/ arrows Paper makes assertion that begs the question the paper is supposed to be addressing.
Clearly, Generally,Adv., or


Avoid words like “clearly” or other adverbs that intensify your argument. “Clearly” is a crutch that is too-often used to boost underdeveloped arguments.  Similarly, “generally” is often used to hide the fact that an absolute statement is not absolute at all.  Example: “I generally take out the trash” does not mean “I always take out the trash.” My recommendation with most adverbs: try removing them. If the argument works ok without the adverb, then your writing and argument will be much stronger for it.  If your argument is no longer true without the adverb, then work on improving the argument.  Or consider whether you need that argument at all.
Straw man orFalse Dichotomy A straw man argument is a counter-position that is set up so that it can be refuted.  Either further develop the counter-position as a plausible position even if you still reject it, or considering removing it entirely. The danger of straw man arguments is that they may be used as part of a “false dichotomy” fallacy, which sets up two arguments as the only positions available.  By striking down the obviously “wrong” position (the straw man), the author sets up the proffered alternative as the “correct” position. However, straw man arguments, when combined with false dichotomies, typically ignore the possibility that other positions may be plausible and even preferable than the two discussed.

Last updated Nov. 12, 2014