Peer Review Editing Checklist for Writers

Complete all sections of this editing checklist during the document’s peer review. (Someone other than the writer should complete the checklist.) Plan on spending at least one full day on the peer review, perhaps longer, depending on the size of the document.

The peer review editing checklist involves completing a copy edit, completing a content edit, and then meeting with the writer to discuss your suggestions.

If you can think of any additional editing or proofreading suggestions, please feel free to add your tips in the comments. Thanks in advance for your help.

Copy Edit

Check the following items during the copy edit:

1. Scan every line for errors (for example, extra or missing spaces, duplicate lines, words that run together).

2. Ensure the text always follows a heading. Headings should not follow headings, without text separating them.

3. Ensure headings appear in the correct order. A heading 3 should follow a heading 2. A heading 4 should not follow a heading 2; it should follow a heading 3.

4. Ensure that capitalization in headings adheres to the style guidelines defined in The Chicago Manual of Style, Microsoft® Manual of Style for Technical Publications (if applicable), or your own organization’s style guide. (Capitalize the first, last, and important words. Don’t capitalize a, the, and for.)

5. Read through for missing words, incomplete sentences, and grammatical errors.

6. Scan for widows or orphans in text, headings, lines, or list items.

7. Ensure the style of the document follows the conventions defined in The Chicago Manual of Style, Microsoft® Manual of Style for Technical Publications (if applicable), or your own organization’s style guide.

8. Check cross references to ensure they point to the correct page.

9. Verify that acronyms are first spelled out. After defining the acronym, you can use the acronym without the word.

10. Ensure that all product names are formatted correctly, especially in the table of contents and the index.

11. Ensure that digits are used for numbers 10 and above, and that numbers nine and below are spelled out.

12. Check for correct and consistent capitalization.

13. Verify that acronyms are spelled out and that the acronym is enclosed in parentheses.

14. Check that in subsequent occurrences of an acronym the words are not spelled out.

15. Verify that all lists contain more than one item.

16. Ensure lists have consistent capitalization and punctuation.

17. If a list item is a complete sentence, the item should start with a capital letter and end with a period.

18. If each list item is NOT a complete sentence, each item should start with a lowercase letter and not end with a period.

19. When the text that introduces a list is an incomplete sentence that is completed by each list item, use a colon (:) at the end of the introductory text. Do not capitalize the first letter of any list item and do not put a period or comma at the end of any list item.

20. Check that figure numbers are consecutive.

21. Check that the figure title reflects the actual figure.

22. Check figures for alignment of text columns.

23. Check each reference to a figure to ensure it points to the correct page.

24. Check that the figure number in the text matches the figure number in the caption.

25. Check that the font in the figures is correct and consistent.

26. Check the index. Ensure that all product references are formatted correctly. Ensure the index follows the conventions discussed in The Chicago Manual of Style, Microsoft® Manual of Style for Technical Publications, if applicable, or your own organization’s style guide.

Content Edit

Check the following items during the content edit:

1. Ensure it is clear who the intended audience is and that the document speaks to the intended audience

2. Look at text that is primarily explanation or description and be sure it is thorough and effective.

3. Check the totals in figures to be sure they are correct. Do the math.

4. Check that the items from a figure when described in the text reflect what’s on the figure.

5. Verify that the preface section “How This Manual is Organized” actually reflects the organization of the document.

6. Read the document for clarity. Ensure it makes sense. Circle any areas that you do not understand, are contradictory, or appear to be highly ambiguous.

7. Note any areas that appear to have missing information. Check for missing sections that would make the document more usable.

8. Make sure the steps in a process relate to the overall process.

9. Ensure items in a numbered list are task-oriented and can be followed.

10. Make sure that the figures or examples relate to the discussion.

Meeting with the Writer

When meeting with the writer, keep these tips in mind:

1. Arrange to meet with the writer to review and discuss your edits.

2. Document any unresolved issues.

3. Notify the group by email that you have completed the review.


7 thoughts on “Peer Review Editing Checklist for Writers

  1. Pingback: Copy Editing, Proofreading Help & Fun - Resource Roundup Tuesday

  2. This is a very useful checklist. I’d suggest adding a “Meeting with the Writer” section at the top, as well, because the edit will go smoother if both parties agree on what’s important and what types of things the writer would most like the editor to look for. You also need to communicate with the writer at the end of the edit, as noted, and the prefatory meeting should make both the process and the final meeting go a lot easier.

    • You’re so right, Marguerite. Too often, writers and editors don’t have that initial meeting, which often sets the tone more collaboratively, constructively, and efficiently from the start.

  3. Pingback: Peer Review Checklist for Technical Writers | Technical Communication Center

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