Copy Editor's QA Guide

Checklist 1 min
Ensure you don't miss any errors as you edit a writer's work.

Nothing ruins credibility faster than obvious grammar or spelling errors in written communication. Use this checklist as a reminder of how to spot mistakes in others' work. It will help preserve credibility and ensure that poor writing skills do not detract from the message.

  1. Read for content.
    1. Read for the facts, the tone and the story structure.
    2. Read as a reader would and see if you understand the message the writer is trying to communicate.
    3. Circle information you want to revisit.
  2. Rework as needed.
  3. Read for errors.
    1. Inspect mechanics (grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure).
    2. Compare to AP and local style guides.
    3. Read aloud (read every syllable of each word in an exaggerated tone to check spelling).
    4. Read the article backward, sentence by sentence.
    5. Place your finger under each word as you read to ensure you are reading the actual words on the page and not mentally inserting what you think you are reading.
    6. Step away for a few minutes and come back to the work to reread with fresh eyes.
  4. Read for clarity.
    1. Ensure the message is clear and that it aligns with the commander’s intent.
    2. Answer any questions a reader might have.
    3. Ensure there are no headless snakes (i.e., last name only on the first reference).
    4. Give perspective-if you give astronomical numbers, provide context.
  5. Read for accuracy.
    1. Check every reference to a specific name or detail.
    2. Use middle initial for proper ID (when writing on a crime).
    3. Verify all dates, places, times and events.
    4. Test all hyperlinks, emails and phone numbers to ensure they work.
    5. Confirm job descriptions and roles and ensure that a person’s job description gives him/her the credibility to speak on the subject.
    6. Verify all numbers and statistics from news to recipes.
    7. Confirm that nothing new has become available immediately before release.
    8. Ask subject matter experts to review the final copy, especially when the subject is complex or technical.
    9. Compare captions to articles. Ensure that they do not contradict one another.