How to create your own proofreading checklist
I’ve said it before (and I’ll no doubt say it again)—finding errors in your own writing is difficult.
You’re so used to the words that you skip over them. You overlook misspelt words, and you’re unable to see the areas where you might improve because your writing style is so… well, you.
But your writing represents you (and your brand) so you want it to be as polished and appealing as it can be. Your writing is how prospective clients or customers can get to know you and decide whether you’re right for them. Spelling errors and wonky style probably aren’t going to make for the best first impression.
This is where your personal proofreading checklist comes in.
@@Don't have a proofreading checklist yet? Read this to find out why & how to create one@@
What is a proofreading checklist?
A proofreading checklist is exactly what it sounds like—a checklist to help you catch certain things when you’re editing or proofreading.
A proofreading checklist is also a means of getting to know yourself and your writing habits. It’s a personal-development tool that will help you to grow as a writer.
Why should you use a proofreading checklist?
Even though proofreading your own writing is tough, you still need to produce high-quality content. Your proofreading checklist will help you to pick up errors or weak points in your writing.
How to create your own proofreading checklist
Think a personal proofreading checklist sounds good? Here’s how to create one that will work wonders for your writing.
1. Decide on the format
First up, you need to figure out how your proofreading checklist is going to serve you best—because there’s no point creating one if you’re not going to use it.
Some formats you could consider:
- a paper checklist (written or printed)—you could keep it in your paper planner, if you have one
- an online document, saved in Google Drive or Dropbox so you can access it from anywhere
- a note on your phone or computer
- an image that you make part of your desktop background.
(PS: Have other ideas? Please let me know in the comments—I’d love to hear about how you use your checklist.)
The key is to make your checklist easily accessible—both to use and to add stuff to. That way, you’ll be much more likely to use it.
2. Think about your weaknesses
Do you know that you struggle with certain things in your writing? Add them all to your checklist.
This step requires you to be mindful of your writing and its flaws and strengths, which is a useful exercise even without the added benefits of creating a proofreading checklist.
Some of the things I have on my proofreading checklist include:
- the words ‘so’ (I use ‘so’ a lot, especially in emails), ‘just’, ‘actually’, ‘basically’, ‘often’, and other weasel words like that
- expletive constructions
- unnecessary self-deprecating remarks (my boyfriend always deletes these—with a scowl on his face—when he edits my work, and I’ve started doing the same. Self-deprecation can be a great writing technique, and very funny, but it’s not my style—I can’t pull it off!)
- overly wordy sentences that can be cut down or simplified
- technical grammar terms (I always double-check to make sure I’m not leading my readers astray).
If you need more ideas for starting your list, you can download a proofreading checklist from the Hedera House resource library.
3. Continue to add to your list
The best way to make sure your proofreading checklist is useful is to keep adding stuff to it.
As you write, notice your weaknesses and add them to the list. If you can’t find anything, hire a professional editor and take note of what they say, or swap writing with a friend you trust and offer feedback on each other’s work. This type of feedback will help you to figure out what you need to improve (and add to your checklist).
If you need more help building your proofreading checklist, I’m offering a special bonus for readers of this blog post—find it at the end of this post.
How to use your proofreading checklist
After you’ve written your content (emphasis on after) and after you’ve done a first edit, grab your proofreading checklist from wherever you’re storing it and use it as your final pass. Consider it a way to catch anything you may have missed in your writing and editing process.
Why do I say to use it after writing and a first edit? Most experienced writers and editors will tell you that editing your work while you’re writing it is a bad, bad idea, because it interrupts the natural flow of your writing. I also think that doing one edit before you consult your checklist is useful—read your work and edit for whatever sounds weird before you go looking for specific items.
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