Susan Hislop Tech Editor
Tech Editing – Color in PDFs

Last updated: 2/10/2022

Or colours, depending on where you live.

When I first started tech editing PDF files all of my highlights and "sticky note" icons were in the same color. Sometimes there were a lot of highlights and I imagine it could have been overwhelming at times for the designer. A large number of them would have been punctuation, grammar, and style corrections which are important in creating a professional, neat, and attractive pattern. But it is the actual errors in the knitting instructions that are most important to correct and they weren't always easy to locate quickly. This led me to develop a color-coded system for my highlights and sticky note icons as follows:

Highlight Color Key
Note: In all cases, my associated explanatory comment text is black for readability!

yellowYellow: Little punctuation things. (For example, spaces that should or shouldn't be there or a missing or an extra period.)

orangeOrange: Grammar, spelling, word usage, and formatting suggestions.

pinkPink: Style inconsistencies and clarity suggestions.

blueBlue: Errors. When something doesn't look right to me (and it's not simply a yellow, orange, or pink matter), I mark it in blue. Often I will suggest a correction.

lilacLilac: A query that may identify an error or needed change. If there are unrelated errors near each other, I may also use this color to distinguish one error from another.

greenGreen: Things to add. These can be as small as one word or as big as a chart, schematic, or whole section.

This allows you, the designer, to focus on specific types of pattern edits and to quickly see how few actual errors there are in the knitting instructions. Of course, your approach is entirely up to you but I would work on blue and lilac highlights first, then pink, orange, and yellow. Leaving green to last means you can take the other items into consideration when adding to your pattern.

Questions & Answers
Why do I use blue for errors? Why not red?
Mostly because blue stands out really well against the other colors. Plus a red highlight makes text slightly less easy to read due to the lower resulting contrast over black text.

Does it take me more time to color-code my work?
No. It actually helps me too when I'm checking my work and also when I'm reviewing your pattern after you've updated it.

What about .docx files and Google docs?
Sorry, my review comments aren't color-coded in these formats. At this time, I don't know of a quick easy way to do so in Word or Google docs. Perhaps in the future! However, this format does have the advantage of allowing me to correct typos, pesky punctuation details, and other obvious things without needing to add review comments. With track changes turned on you can see what I've changed and accept/reject my changes in Word (similarly with suggested edits in Google docs). I'll add review comments for anything that I feel needs an explanation or that needs your input (or use review comments alone if you do not wish me to make changes to the document itself). This can reduce both my tech edit time and the time it takes you to update your pattern.

If you haven't already done so, check out the How I Work page for more info.

With care and color highlights,

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