Proofreading your own work

As promised last time, this is a checklist that you can use to improve your writing.


Work through this list only when your document is close to the final draft otherwise you’ll just have to repeat your checks.

Consistent spelling

  • Make sure you’re using the most appropriate spelling for your document, and that you are using it consistently.
  • Are you using UK or US English (e.g. harbour or harbor)?
  • Are you using -ise or -ize spellings (e.g., organise or organize)?

Spelling and grammar check

  • Run a spelling and grammar check. (I will explain how to tame Word’s spelling and grammar checker in a future post.)


  • Search for any double spaces and replace them with single spaces.
  • Check for unnecessary spaces around punctuation.
  • Check that your headings are spaced consistently throughout your document.

Table of contents

  •  If you have created a table of contents manually, have you used the correct chapter names?
  • Are they in the right order in the table of contents?
  • Do they have the right page numbers?

Tables, figures, maps or illustrations

  • Have you given each table or illustration a number (if relevant) and caption?
  • Have you referred to them correctly in the text?
  • Are they listed correctly in the appropriate illustration list (where you’re using one)? 


  • Have you used bulleted or numbered lists?
  • Have you used the same style of numbers, letters or bullets throughout your document?
  • Have you been consistent in how you’ve introduced and punctuated them?

Acronyms and abbreviations

  • Will your audience understand any acronyms or abbreviations you’ve used?
  • If not, have you either explained what they are at first use, or included them in a glossary?

Citations and references

  • If you have citations, is each included in your reference list?
  • Are both the citations and reference list formatted consistently?
  • Is the reference list/bibliography in the correct order?

Footnotes and end notes

  • If you’ve used notes, are the cues positioned correctly and consistently in the text?
  • Do you have the right text in each note?
  • Is the text in the notes easy to read?

And finally…

Take a break!

After you’ve finished your cuppa (or, even better, after a good night’s sleep), reread your document, out loud if possible. This should help you spot any clumsy sentences, and it might highlight things you’ve missed out.

 Do you have any other hints for checking your own work? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

I’ve worked through your checks. Do I still need a proofreader?

The checklist is here to help you tidy up a short document, when you’re working to a tight deadline, or to help you to reduce the cost of proofreading if you’re working to a budget. They are not, however, a substitute for using a professional.

Whether or not you’ve worked through this checklist, if you’d like to discuss your proofreading requirements, or would like a free no-obligation quote, please do get in touch.

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