22 things to check before publishing a technical manual

Many of us spend a significant amount of time looking over manuals prior to publication. Even the most carefully written guide will have a few typos, pages that break in awkward locations, or a table of contents with incorrect page numbers.

Catching these issues and fixing them requires a trained eye. You need to know what to look for. In such times, it helps to have a checklist of issues to watch for during your proofing pass.

Here is a list of items to watch for when taking a pre-publication look at your work or that of your peers. You may want to keep a printout of your document template handy so that you can double check the document against the formatting in the template.

  • Flip through review copies and make sure all comments from reviewers were incorporated
  • Spell check
  • Regenerate the Table of Contents, or at least spot check the headings and page numbers
  • Verify that the headers and footers alternate correctly
  • Verify that the headers match the chapter titles
  • Verify that the pages are sequentially numbered
  • Check the copyright date to insure that it includes the current year
  • Look for images that extend beyond the margins and adjust them, if necessary
  • Look for images lacking clarity and reshoot or resize them
  • Check a printout for images that don't show up due to printer errors
  • Scan a printout for any strange characters or font-substitution issues
  • Scan for numbered lists and ensure that they are sequentially numbered
  • Search for any notes to the writer that haven't been removed or hidden
  • Look for pages that break in awkward places
  • Verify that trademark symbols are used appropriately for your products and others
  • Verify that the appropriate cover pages or end pages have been attached, if necessary
  • Check for images that do not match information described in the text
  • Regenerate any cross-references to ensure they are up to date
  • Regenerate the Index, or at least make sure page numbers are up to date
  • Check the formatting of headers and footers on special pages, such as the cover, copyright, and first pages of chapters and verify that they match your template / conventions
  • Check for recent convention decisions that may have been made after the document was written
  • Look for long tables that break across pages and verify that the column headings are repeated on each page

This list obviously isn't comprehensive; every document is different and offers unique proofing issues. If I missed anything important, feel free to mention it in a comment.

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