My Editing Checklist


My Editing Checklist

When used by doctors and air-traffic controllers, checklists save lives by ensuring that critical steps aren’t missed during high-stress situations.

Editing doesn’t involve life-or-death stakes (usually), but checklists are still helpful for reducing complexity and lessening the burden on memory for routine tasks. Even after spending forty or more hours on a manuscript, it’s easy, for example, to send off a final package to the client and forget the invoice.

Unlike a style sheet, which goes to the client, the checklist is just for me. There is some overlap, but the checklist simply helps me roll through the steps in my editing process without forgetting anything, whereas the style sheet records such things as proper nouns, variant spellings, and unusual usages. (For more information on style sheets, click here.)

The following is a typical checklist I’d use for a manuscript to be edited in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition) and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, but it’s easily adapted for other styles or editing requirements I’m charged with.


 Create contract (Word exported to PDF)
 Create invoice (Word exported to PDF)
 Set up style sheet (Google Docs)
 Set up chapter-breakdown sheet (Google Docs)
 Rename author’s file
 Set up Toggl for job


 Double space lines of text
 Set automatic indents and delete extraneous tabs with Editor’s Toolkit
 Delete extra returns (Editor’s Toolkit)
 Delete spaces around returns (Editor’s Toolkit)
 Remove double spaces (Editor’s Toolkit)
 Close space around em dashes and ens (editor’s Toolkit)
 Check heading styles
 Check page breaks
 Format ellipses (Editor’s Toolkit)
 Turn straight quotes to curly (Editor’s Toolkit)
 Check TOC


 Start Toggl
 Turn on Track Changes
 Delete commas before “too” and “either” at end of sentence or clause
 Watch for towards, backwards, etc.
 Check for close quotes after em dashes in dialogue
 Ensure US stylings
 Use serial commas
 Insert comments questioning logic, continuity, etc.
 Insert comments praising author’s craft
 Run PerfectIt before second pass
 Read through comments and check tone


 Send edited manuscript with tracked changes
 Send clean PDF
 Send style sheet
 Send chapter breakdown
 Send cover letter
 Send invoice
 Thank them!
 Send follow-up with info on referral fee

In the above, Toggl is a time-tracking application, Editor’s Toolkit is a collection of macros, and PerfectIt is a consistency checker, all of which I find highly useful. I also talk about the tools I use in my editing business in my post “Five Tools That Help My Editing Business.”

Do you use checklists in your work?

About James Gallagher

James Gallagher is a copyeditor and the owner of Castle Walls Editing. For more information about how he can help with your writing projects, email


Gawande, Atul. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. New York: Henry Holt, 2009.

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