Proofreading checklist

Proofreading Checklist: The Best Way to Finish Up Your Paper

After finishing an essay, our first urge is to triumphantly close out of the document in celebration of a job well done—but before calling it a day, you need to proofread.

Everyone makes mistakes, regardless of how strong they are at writing, and these mistakes can drag down the quality of a work. Make sure to go through your piece with a finely toothed comb, looking for errors that wouldn’t come up on a simple spell check.

What specifically should you be looking for as you proofread your work? We’re here to help, with a handy proofreading checklist complete with all the questions you ought to ask yourself as you read through the essay.

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Grammar

  • Did I employ consistent verb tense throughout the paper? (past, present, future)
  • Did my pronouns (e.g. I, We, He, Her, They, Anyone, etc.) agree with their antecedents? Are my pronouns vague?
    • Examples:
    • No → The puppies were so active that itself spent the whole day running around the park.
    • No → The puppies were so active that she spent the whole day running around the park.
    • Yes → The puppies were so active that they spent the whole day running around the park.
  • Did I include unnecessary commas?
  • Did I add commas after introductory elements/compound sentences?

Spelling

  • Did I run a basic spell check?
  • Did I do a basic read through on my own? We often miss small errors while we’re writing.
  • Did I make sure to hyphenate any words requiring a hyphen?

Sentence Structure

  • Did I write in active voice? Did I mostly use active verbs and rarely employ “to be verbs”?
  • Did I vary my sentence structure enough? By writing sentences of various lengths and structures, it keeps your writing more interesting.
  • Did I keep my writing concise? Did I steer clear of using unnecessary words?
    • Example:
    • No → The really cool trickster figure in Hawaiian mythology is pretty much Maui. After some research, I found that according to legend, he like created the Hawaiian islands using a totally weird magic fish hook.
    • Yes → The trickster figure in Hawaiian mythology is Maui. According to legend, he created the Hawaiian islands using a magic fish hook.

Word Choice

  • Did I avoid using jargon-y language that might be confusing to readers?
  • Did I use the precise word each time? Did I make sure I understand the definitions of all words used?
  • Did I consider the connotations of the words I used, in addition to the dictionary definitions?
  • Did I avoid using slang and other informal terms (eg. stuff)?

Transitions

  1. Did I make sure my sentences flow into each other smoothly?
  2. Did I connect my paragraphs to one another? Did I use transition words like although, however and therefore?

Formatting

  1. Did I keep my font and font size consistent throughout the paper? Did I use an easy-to-read font like Arial or Times New Roman?
  2. Did I double-space my paper? Did I keep the spacing consistent throughout?
  3. Did I remember to indent before all new paragraphs?
  4. Did I properly cite all sources used within my paper? Did I use MLA format or whatever proper citation style my teacher asked for? Did I keep citations consistent throughout my paper?
  5. Did I include necessary footers and headers?
  6.  Did I add page numbers, if requested?

General Tips

Remember, we all make mistakes sometimes, so no worries if your essay requires further revision upon proofreading. If you don’t feel confident in your own ability to evaluate your work, consider asking a friend to look at your essay, keeping these specific checklist items in mind.

To assess the flow of your piece, try reading the whole thing aloud. If you find yourself stumbling over words as you read your own work—or find the words confusing—revisions are in order.
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