How Do You Edit a PDF?

Many of my colleagues and clients ask, “How do you edit a PDF?” The simple answer is, you don’t. But there are ways around the issue. My esteemed writing colleague, Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, has this to say on the topic:

“PDFs aren’t meant for editing, because they are images. You can’t actually correct the text in them; you can only mark them up so that someone can then go in and make the noted corrections to the source document (e.g., to a Word document). That said, if you must mark up a PDF as part of proofreading, there are lots of blog posts and video tutorials on how to do that as painlessly as possible.”

Katharine adds the following: “If the original file went through Adobe Distiller (the application that converts Word, Excel, etc to PDF) and if the security settings weren’t set, you can actually edit the text in a PDF file. But that’s still not great for real editing (i.e., heavy-duty editing.)”

The following links come from the “Editing Tools” page of the Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base, which is curated by Katharine.

*Annotating PDFs: A Piece of the Digital Workflow (a 3-part video):




*”Basic PDF Mark-Up for Copy Editors and Proofreaders”:
nd-proofreaders/>, or

*”Create a Checklist of Your PDF Mark-up in 2 Clicks”:
up-in-2-clicks/>, or

*”Edit Tools for Marking up PDFs in Acrobat”:
robat/>, or

*”Key Mark-Up Techniques for Proofreading PDFs”:
ing-pdfs/>, or

*PDF editing stamps (American proofreading symbols) made available by
Wiley & Sons: <>, or

*PDF editing stamps (American proofreading symbols): red set and black
set (made available by Copyediting-L): <>
(click on the “Resources” tab, and then use your browser’s page-search
function to find the phrase “Diana Stirling’s”)

*”PDF Editing–Making the Most of the Stamps Tool”:
king-the-most-of-the-stamps-tool.html>, or

*”Timesaving PDF Markup Using Adobe Acrobat”:
<>, or (article in _Copyediting_ newsletter; paid
subscription required)

*”Using the PDF Markup Comments List: One User’s Experience”:
ne-user%e2%80%99s-experience/>, or