Proofreaders generally look for two kinds of errors while proofreading essays, journal articles, books, and other forms of writing: language-related errors and “non-text” formatting errors.
To keep track of what to look for, proofreaders will often create or modify an existing proofreading checklist. The kind of checklist a proofreader follows will depend on the kind of text a proofreader is working on. For example, a proofreading checklist for an ebook will look very different from a print book checklist. To demonstrate the point, I’ve listed some proofreading checklists for a variety of texts below:
Proofreading Page Proofs for Print Books, by Dick Margulis
Many publishers and organizations will have a specific proofreading checklist that they’d like proofreaders to follow. Otherwise, McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook, Butcher’s Copy-editing, by Judith Butcher et al. and Proofreading Secrets by Elizbeth Macfie can get you started with creating your own proofreading checklist.
Students can use proofreading checklists, too. Here are a few that are especially helpful:
York University Proofreading Checklist (downloadable)
Vancouver Island University Checklist (downloadable)
Delta College Proofreading Checklist (downloadable)
There are many tasks to keep track of in the process of producing good writing. Having a proofreading checklist on hand for that “last look” can help proofreaders and authors catch errors they’d otherwise miss.