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Checklist for the Final Proofing Stage of a journal article

Importance of the proofing stage

The proofing stage is the stage after your paper has been accepted but before it is published. It is more or less your last chance to ensure that all the important details of your paper are correct. At the proofing stage, you as the author are responsible for ensuring that the final proofs are error-free. Be mindful of certain errors that might persist despite your proofreading at earlier stages, as well as mistakes that accidentally slip in from the journal’s end during production. 

Proofing stage vs. proofreading stage

Do note that proofing is a separate, different step from proofreading, which is done before you submit your manuscript to the journal (either when you first submit or when you resubmit it after making revisions). Proofreading is a more general term that refers to scanning a piece of text for typographical errors, and can and should be done at every stage – writing, submitting and revising – of processing the manuscript.

On the other hand, proofing occurs at the stage after acceptance – it refers to going through the manuscript once the journal has communicated their willingness to publish it. In some cases, it is referred to as the ‘galley proof’ stage, which is a traditional term. While proofreading primarily focuses on addressing typographical and other mechanical errors, proofing has a broader scope in that it also needs you to look at the accuracy and relevance of the information intended to be published.

Proofing checklist

Now that you are familiar with the importance of proofing, here is a handy checklist that you can refer to before you send your accepted article to the journal a final time.

a. Spellings

  • UK vs. US English: A manuscript must not contain a mix of UK and US English spelling. Most journals specify the language; if they don’t, select one and ensure that you have used that spelling convention consistently throughout the paper.
  • Homophones, homonyms and more: Go over your text with a fine eye to spot errors involving similar-sounding (e.g. their vs. there) or similar-looking (e.g. gnome vs. genome) words.
  • Technical terms: Ensure that the spellings of all complex technical terms, chemical compounds, species names, etc. are correct.
  • Author details: Carefully recheck the spellings of all the author names and affiliations as no one would want their name or affiliation to be published incorrectly. 

b. Accuracy and consistency

  • Abbreviations, acronyms and alphanumeric terms: Your final proofing must include checks for consistency and accuracy of short forms and alphanumeric characters of gene and protein symbols. For example, the letter I and numeral 1 are commonly interchanged, e.g. in PI3K.
  • Units: Check units of measure for accuracy and correct usage.
  • Tables and figures
    • Ensure that all tables and figures have been called out in the text and also that they are in sequential order. For example, Fig. 3 should be cited after Fig. 2 (and not before it).
    • Make sure that the figure/table captions, legends and labels correspond correctly.

c. Formatting

Conduct a final check against the journal’s Information for Authors to ensure that all the elements have been included and appear in the right order.

d. Declarations and disclosures

  • Ensure that you have included the necessary ethical declarations and financial disclosures, along with the complete information that they typically require.
  • Check the approval numbers and spellings of approving/funding agencies carefully.

In case errors remain after proofing…

We are human, and oversights on the part of the authors or journal production team might still slip through. Don’t worry; these mistakes can be addressed via errata or corrigenda. However, to avoid such situations, it is best that you cover all bases and ensure an impeccable finalised article

End notes

Some mistakes are easy to miss, while others are difficult to catch. An error-free proof shows that you have taken care of the minutest aspects, and doing this can quicken your article towards publication. Congrats then on having been accepted, and also on soon getting published!


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