Proofreading Checklist

This is totally how I work … reading in levels, paging through again and again, back and forth. Happy to see I ain’t the only one!  I suggest making a laminated printout of this to present to your boss/client the next time they expect instant turnaround. (And don’t they always!)

Never proofread by reading a manuscript through only once looking for errors. The mind is not able to process all of the information in a document in one pass. Instead, read every normal, uncomplicated manuscript three times:

1. Read for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
2. Read again for content errors.
3. Read a final time for consistency in format, list items, and choice of words.
4. If the manuscript contains any of the following, read through it once for each characteristic after you have finished the three readings above:

  • Statistics, numbers, or dollar amounts. Do a separate statistics proofread.
  • Dates, telephone numbers, addresses. Do a separate numbers check. For important dates, telephone numbers, and addresses, look up the original information and compare the records. For advertising copy or direct mail, dial the phone numbers to be sure they are accurate.
  • Special formatting. Do a separate check of special formatting to be sure it complies with requirements.
  • Headings, numbered lists, sections with titles. Do a separate check of the headings, sequences of numbers, and titles on sections. Check to see whether the stated number of points is present. Check consistency in formatting.
  • Tables, charts, graphs. Do a separate accuracy check to be sure the visuals match the originals.
  • Cross references. If the manuscript refers to other pages, do a final proofread for cross-references after the manuscript has been printed for the last time.
Check these areas where errors are most likely to occur or be missed:
    1. Captions and titles in tables, graphs, and illustrations
    2. The first words or paragraph of the document
    3. The last words or paragraph of the document
    4. The text break at page breaks
    5. Titles and running heads
    6. Titles or other words in all caps
    7. Words in large type
    8. Headings
    9. Table of contents
    10. Page numbers

Much thanks to :


3 Comments to “Proofreading Checklist”

  1. Thanks for this – your blog is very helpful.

    With respect to the first point above, let’s now wage war on the ghastly error, “should of been” 🙂 along with the confusion of pluralization with — ugh — “possessive’s”.

    With respect to the third point, managers assume people are up to snuff on the document-producing software and don’t insist on proper training. I often see documents written by folks who use hard returns instead of leaving things to word-wrap while adjusting the right margins. Revealing the hidden characters in their documents presents me with a nightmarish scenario of superfluous tabs, returns and spaces as well as general formatting inconsistency all around. There is neither the use of paragraph formatting nor page breaks. Withering.

    • It’s funny, when I try to explain to the youngsters I work with (they’re ALL youngsters!) that there is no need for two spaces between sentences because we aren’t working on mono-spaced manual typewriters anymore, they have no idea what I’m talking about! For some reason this practice has been handed across from mechanical to digital technology but of course is now completely unnecessary; word processing programs automatically adjust the kerning of letters within a word as well as the space between words and sentences. One of the first things I do when editing a report is search and replace to delete two spaces and replace with one.

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