Proofreading Checklist for the Basic Essay

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Essay Checklist

Face it, proofreading is a necessary evil. Has a writer ever lived who actually enjoyed proofing his work? Still, it must be done. Even the most careful and conscientious writer will do something embarrassing. If we care at all about what people think of our writing, we must proofread.

Below is the checklist we provide WriteAtHome students for self-checking their final drafts before submission. Feel free to copy it, use, and share it (just be sure you tell folks where you got it). A pinnable version is below. A good, thorough checklist still isn’t any fun, but it makes proofreading at least a little easier.

By the way, if any of the concepts in the list are unfamiliar to you, I’ve provided links to articles I’ve done here on the blog that may help you get the idea. You might find more in our Free Resource Library.

WriteAtHome Basic Essay Proofreading Checklist

Style
  • Is every sentence clear and easy to understand?
  • Do my sentences and paragraphs connect coherently with effective transitions from idea to idea? Do I avoid abrupt shifts and awkward transitions?
  • Do I employ mostly strong action verbs or do I rely too much on weak “be” verbs?
  • Is my writing primarily in the active voice? Do my subjects act or are they often passive acted upon?
  • Is my writing economical and concise or do I waste words? Which sentences can I shorten to make more effective?
  •  Do I use specific, concrete nouns?
  • Do I illustrate using vivid, concrete images as much as possible, avoiding abstract words and ideas unless necessary?
  • Is my tone appropriately formal? Too formal and stilted? Overly casual?
  • Is there variety in the length of my sentences? Do I vary the structure of my sentences?
  • Do I say something new and important in each sentence, or do I repeat myself?
  • In every sentence, do I say what I intend to say or do I settle for something close?
  • Do I use direct quotes and paraphrases effectively?
  • Are my sentences interesting and creative? Are some of them striking and memorable?
Grammar/Usage
  • Are all my sentences complete? Any accidental fragments? Any comma splices or run-ons?
  • Is my verb tense consistent throughout the paper?
  • Do all my verbs agree with their subjects?
  • Are the antecedents for all my pronouns clear? Is it clear what the pronouns refer to?
  • Do my pronouns agree with their antecedents in number?
  • Do I use the proper pronoun case (nominative or objective) in each sentence?
  • Are all my modifying words, phrases, and clauses correctly placed? Do they clearly modify the word or phrase they are supposed to?
Word Choice/Diction
  • Do I use the precise word every time? Am I sure of the definitions of the words I’ve used?
  • Can I replace any word with one that is more precise, clear, or vivid?
  • Am I aware of the connotations of the words I use?
  • Have I left out any words I meant to include? Have I left words in I meant to delete?
  • Do I avoid technical jargon and slang that might be unfamiliar to my reader?
  • Do I avoid clichés and bland, overused expressions?
  • Have I eliminated all unnecessary adjectives and adverbs?
Mechanics & Formatting
  • Have I spelled every word correctly? (Don’t trust your spell-checker — it doesn’t catch homophones and any typos that result in another word.)
  • Does every sentence end in a period (or question mark or exclamation point)?
  • Have I followed the rules for comma use?
  • Have I correctly punctuated and formatted all my quotations?
  • Have I capitalized properly?
  • Have I avoided unnecessary abbreviations?
  • Do I indent or skip a line consistently to begin all new paragraphs?
  • Are my paragraph breaks where they should be?
  • Is my paper double-spaced?
  • Is my font simple and a consistent 10- or 12-point size?

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Essay Checklist*****

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About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian Wasko

Brian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.

View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. robt catalano
    robt catalano12-03-2013

    WriteAtHome.com could use a different font. The letter “T” and the “H” of At and Home ” fuse together and was difficult for me to read. A different font might solve the problem.

    • Linda
      Linda12-03-2013

      I believe they were striving to create a visual play on words by making “At” look like an A+ within the apple. I didn’t have a problem with it.

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