Essay Proofing Checklist

So, you’ve finished your essay… yay you!

But have you?

Sadly, your work isn’t quite done the minute you hit the final keystroke on your conclusion. In fact, it may have just begun.

It’s no major secret that the students who bag the top grades are those who spend time editing and refining their essays. Dull it may be, but the editing process really is all the difference between a grade your mom will brag about at the local five and dime and something so poor that your dreams of getting a scholarship are firmly dashed. If you think you don’t need to edit your essay, it could be that you do, indeed, have advanced essay writing skills that would put Mark Twain to shame, but it’s much more likely that you just can’t be bothered. And who would blame you?

The first thing you need to get your head around is that the first draft of your essay will most certainly not be perfect. Our essay editors can attest to that! It doesn’t matter how advanced your written composition skills are, there WILL be mistakes in your essay, and there WILL be room for improvement.

This handy essay editing checklist contains some useful hints and tips as to the important things you should be on the look out for when editing an academic essay. It’s by no means definitive, but it’s an ideal starting point if you find yourself wondering how the heck to turn the first draft of your essay into a finely tuned masterpiece that will knock your professor’s socks off.

This checklist that I have created helps my students and will help you with thorough proofreading of your essays to give yourself the best chances of success.

Recommended for VCE French, DELF or any written exam preparation or French assignment!

Note: this checklist is part of the resources I’ve included in my French VCE exam revision guide, “How to Prepare for the French VCE & Reach your Maximum Score”.

Exam Tips:

  • Practice well before an exam so that you know what you should pay particular attention to on for the big day.
  • Download the free PDF version of my Proofreading Checklist. There is a bonus checklist inside!
  • I suggest that you first read my article about How to Write the Perfect French Essay and that you use the following proofreading checklist after you’re done writing. Allow at least 10minutes for proofreading before handing out your copy. The proofreading stage is too often skipped by students, while this could actually help fix some simple mistakes…


Efficient proofreading requires basic French grammar notions (click here for an introduction).

Proofreading Checklist


  • Check for any spelling mistake (including the use of accents)
  • Check for any missing word
  • Avoid repetitions, use pronouns where possible
  • A typical sentence starts with the subject. Use a comma to separate any additional information that you would like to include before the subject.
    Ex: Il est rentré de vacances la semaine dernière.
    La semaine dernière, il est rentré de vacances.
  • Contracted articles:
  • Presence and relevant use of linking words/connectors to structure the text

Nouns and related

For each noun,

  • Is the gender of the noun correct? (masculine/feminine) – check in the dictionary if its use is permitted
  • Do the nouns have articles? (most often the case in French, except with occupations)
  • Use the preposition « de » before the noun (without an article!) when referring to quantities.
    Ex: beaucoup de café, un peu de sucre mais pas de lait.
  • Make sure the articles and adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun they describe.
  • Same thing about the adjective “quel(le)(s)” and words derived from it (lequelle, duquel, etc)
  • Position of adjectives: before or after the noun?
  • Capital letters are not as commonly used in French:
    • No capitalisation for names of months or days
      Ex: mardi, septembre
    • Nationalities: use capital letters for nouns but not for adjectives.
      Ex: un Australien (=the person) ; un kangourou australien (=adjective of nationality)
  • Capitalise proper nouns, i.e names of places/countries/town, of people
  • Country names generally have an article in French!
    Ex: China = la Chine

Verbs and related

For each verb,

  • Check that you have used the right verb, at the right tense and mood
  • The verb agrees with the subject
  • Adverbs are usually positioned after the verb
  • Does the verb need to be used with a specific preposition? ( à, de, etc)
  • If using reported/indirect speech: if the introductory verb is in the past tense, have you applied any relevant backshift of tense in the reported speech?
  • Compound tenses (passé composé, plus-que-parfait, conditionnel passé, etc):
    • Use of « être » or « avoir » auxiliary ?
    • Does the past participle need to agree (with the subject, with an object)?
  • Negation:
    • The negation has 2 parts (not 3!)
    • Correct position of the negation (especially with compound tenses or infinitives)
  • Infinitive: If using 2 verbs referring to the same subject, the second should be in the infinitive form.
    Ex: J’adore lire.
  • Subjunctive:
    • I there any expression that triggers the use of the subjunctive?
    • The subjunctive can only be used when the subjects of the 2 verbs are different: is this the case?


  • Identify and avoid useless repetitions by using pronouns.
  • What type of pronoun is needed? (direct object, indirect, stress pronoun, reflexive, relative, etc)
  • Check that the form of the pronoun matches what it stands for.
    Ex: “Ma famille”=”elle” (fem.sing.)
  • Ensure that the pronoun is not far from its antecedent/what it stands for : can we easily understand what it refers to?

I hope this helps! Don’t forget to download my user-friendly PDF Proofreading Checklist below.

If you require more help with your proofreading, you can submit your text via my French Essay Correction service.

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Filed Under: Articles & TutorialsTagged With: activity, adjectives, checklist, French essay, French lessons, French tutor, grammar, language learning, method, PDF, proofreading, tips, vocabulary, worksheet, writing


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