What Does Proofreading Mean? Definition and Checklist
  • 6-minute read
  • 7th February 2023

What Does Proofreading Mean? Definition and Checklist

Proofreading is an important step in the writing process that ensures high-quality, professional, error-free writing. In this article, you’ll learn all about proofreading, including effective techniques and tips and a checklist you can use at home.

What Is Proofreading?

Proofreading is the process of carefully reviewing written work to find and correct errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting. It is the final step in the writing process; it ensures clean, clear, and professional writing before submission or publication. Keep in mind that proofreading differs from other writing steps, such as revising or editing, so be sure you know how the steps differ and when they should be completed in the writing process.

The Importance of Proofreading

Proofreading is important because it helps you catch mistakes you may have made during the writing stage. Proofreading ensures that your work is polished and professional and that your ideas are clear. Proofreading is especially important for writing that will be viewed by a larger audience or published: novels, short stories, online articles, etc. In formal writing, such as academic papers, business proposals, and resumes, proofreading is equally important because it shows professionalism and attention to detail from the writer.

How to Proofread

While proofreading can be as simple as reading over an email before hitting send. it can be more involved, depending on the type of document in question. Proofreading involves reading your work carefully, line by line, and looking for errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting.

Tips for Effective Proofreading

Whether you are proofreading your own writing or that of others, here are some great tips to make sure you don’t miss a stray comma!

Leave Plenty of Time

Make sure you have plenty of time to proofread before your deadline, especially if you are proofreading your own writing. When you are proofreading your own writing, it can be particularly difficult to catch mistakes. If possible, wait a couple of days after you finish writing before you go back and proofread. This way, you will have fresh eyes and a new perspective.

Read Your Work

Reading your work in different ways will highlight mistakes that may be missed otherwise. Here are three ways you can read your work to catch mistakes and get a different perspective on your writing:

Read from the bottom to the top: Start with the last sentence and go all the way to the first. This helps isolate each sentence so you can focus on errors.

Read out loud: Read your work out loud in funny or strange voices. Pretend you are a robot or an opera singer to highlight grammar errors or awkward sentences that need your attention.

Use the read aloud function: Most word processing systems have a read aloud option. Listening to someone else (or a computer) read your work gives you the perspective of a listener or a different reader and further aids in the proofreading process.

Use a Proofreading Checklist

A checklist can alleviate some of the mental fatigue of trying to remember everything you need to look for in a text. You’ll find a great proofreading checklist below to use at home.

Take Breaks

You are not a super(wo)man or a machine. Take a ten-minute break every hour or so to give your eyes and mind a rest. When you become too familiar with a text, you will start to skim over mistakes and errors. Be sure to get movement in also during your breaks to avoid any physical stiffness or discomfort.

Get a Fresh Set of Eyes

Whether it’s a friend, a peer, or a professional proofreader, having someone else look for mistakes and give feedback is always helpful. They will have a different perspective and can offer fresh ideas to enhance your writing.

Proofreading Checklist

If you’re not sure what to look for while proofreading, here’s a checklist you can copy and paste for future use. 

●  Spelling: Check for misspelled and commonly confused words (e.g., there vs. their or affect vs. effect).

●  Grammar: Check for subject–verb agreement, verb tenses, and article use.

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●  Punctuation: Check for proper use of periods, commas, semicolons, colons, apostrophes, and quotation marks.

●  Capitalization: Check for capitalization of proper nouns, the first word of sentences, and specified words in titles and headings (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.).

●  Formatting: Check for consistency in fonts, spacing, and alignment.

●  Contractions (I’m, can’t, should’ve, etc.): Do not use contractions in academic or business writing.

●  Clarity: Check for wordiness, redundancy, and awkward phrasing.

●  Accuracy: Check for any factual errors or inaccuracies.

●  Citations and the reference list: Check for proper in-text citation and reference list formatting.

●  Consistency: Check for consistency in language, tone, and style.

Or if you’re serious about proofreading properly, check out our official Proofed Proofreading Checklist. It’s what our expert proofreaders use!


Proofreading is an important step in the writing process because it helps to ensure that your work is clear, professional, and easy to understand. Be sure to set time aside to proofread your work, take frequent breaks during the process, and use a checklist so you don’t miss a mistake.


What are some common mistakes to look for when proofreading?

Check for spelling, punctuation, grammar, capitalization, and formatting mistakes. Make sure the writing is clear, concise, and consistent. Reword sentences that are wordy, overly lengthy, or awkward. Overall, you want to have error-free, polished, and professional text.

How can I improve my proofreading skills?

The best way to improve your proofreading skills is through practice and experience. Having a strong command of English grammar and writing mechanics is imperative. Consider taking a proofreading course, such as the one offered by Knowadays, to get expert feedback and materials if you are serious about becoming a proofreader.

What’s the difference between proofreading and editing?

Proofreading focuses on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting mistakes. Think of it as the final polish in the writing process. Editing comes before proofreading in the writing process and focuses on the content, organization, and overall structure of the writing.

Where can I hire a professional to proofread my work for me?

Proofed has a team of more than 750 professional editors with expertise in fields across the board. We work with researchers, students, Fortune 500 companies, and independent authors to make their writing clean, professional, and ready for publication. Take advantage of our free trial today.

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