Written by Nicole O’Meara

As a new proofreader, I have been looking for ways to save time, be more efficient, and provide my clients with the most value for their dollar. Thanks to an episode of The Modern Editor Podcast, I found one that has worked: prechecks.

A precheck list is a list of common errors authors make that may be found consistently throughout a project. These errors are also easy to fix with a find/replace action. By finding and fixing them at the start of a project, I save time fixing the same errors over and over as I encounter them. Those consistent errors can slow me down and be a distraction when I’m “in the flow.” Staying in the flow makes me a more efficient editor and that’s my goal.

Prechecks also give me a sense of the author’s style. Do they use dialogue heavily? If so, I know I need to freshen up my understanding of dialogue rules before I dig in. Do they quote other authors often? Time to reread Jane Friedman’s blogpost (https://janefriedman.com/sample-permission-letter/) on Fair Use laws and refresh my memory.

Creating a precheck list isn’t hard. I created my own list in just minutes. After listening to the podcast, I knew immediately which items I would include in my own list—items that repeatedly caused me time and trouble. Some of those things were on the podcaster’s list, some were not. Some of the things the podcaster was checking for were her personal “trouble words” which were different than mine. So my list looks different than hers and your list will likely look different than mine.

Here is my list of prechecks.

  1. Extra spaces – Look for these after a period and in place of indents. Type ” ” in Find>Replace.
  2. -Ly Adverbs – Adverbs with -ly do not take hyphens. Type “-ly” in Find>Replace.
  3. Trouble Words affect/effect – Use Find and look at each instance.
  4. Trouble Words lay/lie/laid/lain – Use Find and look at each instance.
  5. Words that end in like – Refer to CMOS 7.89 and MW. Type “-like” in Find and look at each instance.
  6. Half – Use Find and look at each instance to see if half should be hyphenated or not. Refer to CMOS 7.89.
  7. Compounds mid- non- pre- semi- Use Find and look at each instance. Refer to CMOS 7.89.
  8. Commas with internal or terminal to, either, though – When these words are found in the middle of a sentence or at the end of a sentence, refer to CMOS 6.52 or Style Guide/Sheet. Use Find and check each instance.
  9. Double punctuation – Type “..” or “,,” or “!!” in Find. Query the client or use Style Guide for double exclamation points.
  10. Straight Apostrophes and Straight Quotes – Type “^34” in Find for straight quotes. Type “^39” in Find for straight apostrophes.

We’re all looking for ways to be more efficient editors. Using prechecks is one way this newbie editor found to do just that.

What’s on your list?


Nicole O’Meara has been blogging for over ten years. After an injury limiting her activity out of the home, she found unexpected joy proofreading. Her favorite way to work is facing the sunshine in her Northern California backyard with her fluffy Aussiedoodle at her feet. Learn more about Nicole at https://nicoleomeara.blog.