Proofreading Checklist

Check for format discrepancies.

  • Mark instances where type diverges from the established typeface, font, font weight, point size, color, and so on.
  • Flag where the space between lines of type, or paragraphs, or the width of a column of type, is inconsistent, and where spacing between letters on one or more lines of type is especially tight or loose.
  • Call out extra letter spaces or instances in which the first line of a paragraph is not indented, or is when it should not be.

Check special characters and marks.

  • Are mathematical symbols or other special characters correctly formatted?
  • Are diacritical marks correct?

Check for lengths of text blocks.

  • Flag especially short or especially long paragraphs, or sections of text that appear to have been run together or accidentally divided. Suitable paragraph length depends on multiple factors (document size, text size, margin width, formality of content), so use your judgment.

Check for widows, multiple end-of-line hyphens or stacked words, and orphaned subheads.

  • Mark single lines of type separated from preceding content on a new column or page.
  • Flag instances in which hyphens appear at the end of three or more lines of type in a row.
  • Call out where the same word or phrase is located at the left or right margin of multiple consecutive rows.
  • Flag any subhead not followed by at least two lines of type near the bottom of a column.

Check for bad breaks.

  • Are any words awkwardly divided across two lines—broken at the wrong place (genuf-/lect, for example, instead of genu-/flect) or divided when the word is already hyphenated (“well-mean-/ing”)?
  • Are any words hyphenated from one spread to the next? (Such an occurrence from a left page to a right page is generally acceptable.)

Check headings and subheads.

  • Is there a clear hierarchy of different levels of headings used to organize sections of running text?
  • Do headings and subheadings correctly and consistently have correct formatting—typeface, font, font weight, color, and point size?
  • Are headings and subheadings brief, and pertinent to the running text that follows?
  • Are single subheads avoided?

Check miscellaneous display type.

  • Are captions, image credits, footnotes (and their indicator numbers and symbols), and other assorted content that is not running text formatted correctly and consistently?

Check graphic elements.

  • Are headings, labels, and other text elements for graphs, charts, tables, maps, and illustrations formatted correctly and consistently?
  • Does visual quantitative information (extent of bars in bar charts, relative size of pie segments in pie charts, and so on) correspond with cross-references to statistics elsewhere in the graphics or in the running text?

Check page numbers, folios, and recurring design elements.

  • Are page numbers sequential and positioned correctly?
  • Are folios (recurring labels such as a book or chapter title at the top or bottom of each page) correct and located correctly?
  • Are typeface, font, font weight, color, and point size of page numbers and folios consistent?
  • Are design elements like rules (thin horizontal lines) and other recurring design features consistent and correct?

Check the table of contents against the contents.

  • If there is a table of contents or some other form of outline, do listed chapter titles, page numbers, and the like conform with those elements throughout the document? (Page numbers, especially, may change during a redesign or between document versions, and you may be asked to check page numbers throughout the document and fill in the numbers in the table of contents once the document is laid out.)
  • Do entries in other organizational tables such as a list of illustrations conform with the locations of the elements listed?

Check cross-references.

  • Verify and/or fill in when references are made to content in other parts of the document (“as previously mentioned in chapter 6,” for example, or “as discussed on page XX”).
  • If there is a glossary, does every entry correspond with an instance of the term in the running text?

Check links.

  • If URLs appear in what will be published as printed material, copy and paste them or type them into a browser to verify them.
  • If the publication will be posted online, check that all hyperlinks are active and that they direct the reader to the correct destination.

Check the index.

  • Are page numbers for all index entries correct?
  • Do the index entries correspond correctly with the indexed content?
  • Are entries, subentries, and page numbers correctly formatted?
  • Are page references to graphic elements or notes correctly emphasized? (Page numbers for such elements are italicized or set boldface, for example, or an abbreviation is attached to the page number, as with “100c” for a chart on page 100.)

Check spelling. Use the document’s spell-checking feature, but don’t depend on it—treat it as a backup. Such tools may not conform to the publisher’s preferences, or may in rare cases be outright incorrect. When in doubt, look it up.

Additional Proofreading Steps

If you feel the need to be especially meticulous, try one or both of these strategies during a subsequent pass or two:

  • Read the content aloud. This helps catch easily overlooked repetitions or omissions. Better yet, pair up with someone: One person recites the original content as the other scans the proof.
  • Read the content backward. This will not help detect problems with grammar and syntax, but repetitions and omissions of words will be obvious.