Checklists for Writers
It is not a new thing that if you often perform the same sequence of actions, for example, turn off electrical appliances and lock the door every day before going out, it is difficult to remember whether these actions were performed on a particular day.
Brian Tracy, a self-development writer, says “Everything in life is a checklist, whether it’s building a birdhouse or building a kitchen. If you don’t have a checklist, you are much more likely to forget something.”
To be sure that all necessary operations have been completed, you should use the checklist. This buzzword means a list of things to check. Whether you’re managing content creation or are working from home as a freelance writer, a checklist helps you verify if you have done everything in order not to forget or not to miss something important, not to make mistakes.
Let’s see what benefits they bring to professionals engaged in writing and look at ways that a checklist can improve your work.
What is a Checklist?
First, let’s define what a checklist is. It is a list containing several necessary points to check for any work. By marking the items on the list, you, the team or specialist, can learn about the status or correctness of a certain work.
This is especially relevant for SEO writing. When you’re writing a longread that has to include a few dozen keywords and specific links, it can be really easy to forget a couple of them. Then, you go back to your work and rewrite it because you didn’t include everything you needed.
Here are a couple of other things that checklists may help with:
- help save time and money spent on fixing errors;
- give yourself or your employees a simple algorithm they can follow;
- manage workflow across the board;
- simplify the work of the editor;
- provide your clients with the best quality of work every time.
So if you need to develop an algorithm of actions or get a simple and understandable tool for self-testing, use checklists. Now, how do you create an effective checklist?
Why Do Writers Need Checklists?
Writing is a multifaceted cognitive task. It often forces authors to interact with a huge amount of information during research. They have to process texts of varying levels of complexity.
It exhausts working memory because of the metacognitive demands of writing. Often, a writer becomes so focused on the task at hand that they forget some of the finer details. To facilitate the writing process, working memory needs to be supported.
As any other task writing is a system. “A writing system will help you pump out better articles at a faster pace. By checking off each step in order, you’ll avoid writer’s block, never lose an idea, and consistently write quality articles,” believes Chad Magee.
Checklists can become a perfect solution for the writers to self‐regulate their writing procedures effectively. Whether you’re a content creator yourself or you manage other content creators for your business, having a checklist makes sure the fine details are met every time.
Types of Writers’ Checklists
First of all, it is necessary to brainstorm and imagine what your ideal piece of content should look like. And based on it, you can develop personal checklists for specific projects and purposes. However, some things remain basic when we talk about high-quality content. Thus the ideal set of writing checklists should include a few of them.
General Writing Checklist
Here’s how a typical pre-writing checklist looks like:
· Research the topic you are going to write about.
· Gather all talking points you need to address.
· Collect necessary statistics with links to the source.
· Collect reference material: other articles and blog posts with links to them.
· Create a mind map. Today it is recognized as a convenient and effective technique for visualizing thinking.
· Check for stylistic guidelines if the content is being published on third-party websites.
· Set an estimated timeframe.
If you’re creating a checklist for a freelance writer you hire or an in-house employee you may also include points like adding the task to a Trello board or reporting on it.
After completing your text, make sure to check it for possible mistakes and inconsistencies
- Run story through the Hemingway app;
- Make your spelling flawless with Grammarly;
- Check grammar with various online services;
- Look for and eliminate clichés using online service Readable;
- Check the text for plagiarism, try Unicheck for this purpose;
If your standards call for it, you may replace some of these services or add a point about including a screenshot of the software check to the checklist.
The next stage is proofreading. If you’re a writer, you’ll need to wait for at least a day before you proofread it yourself. This will help you be able to view it with a fresh look. If you manage a team, this would be a checklist for the editor. Here’s what a checklist like that may look like.
- Read your text out loud. This approach will help you to catch errors that you have overlooked earlier.
- Check if the style and voice of the text is consistent throughout the text.
- Check if each paragraph seamlessly transitions to the next.
- Follow all links you stated in you writing to ensure that they are working;
- Check all statistic data you have stated in your text;
- Check all the names of people, companies, books, places you have used in your story;
- You may also check the readability score of your writing with online services like Fresh Essays, Readable and amend it with suggested hints.
As a small business owner, you’ll mostly have to deal with SEO writing. Whether it’s for your homepage or for blog, you need the text you publish to be as Google-friendly as possible.
However, the ability to express your thoughts beautifully is not enough to make a piece of writing SEO friendly. You also need to be able to correctly distribute keywords and phrases throughout the text. An SEO writing checklist will help you make sure all texts you publish meet modern industry standards.
A good SEO text should meet these criteria:
- It is well structured (H1-H6 tags are mentioned correctly);
- It is simply outlined;
- It is literate: without spelling, stylistic and other errors;
- It must include a list of keywords (create a checklist point for each keyword);
- It is unique (the required percentage depends on the technical specifications);
- It contains correctly selected meta tags.
To master the basics of SEO requirements and make your writing checklists even more SEO-friendly, visit SEO Learning Center.
Rules for Checklist Creation
As a small business owner, you probably will have to adapt to the type of writing your business needs. Depending on whether you’re creating a new blog post about your niche product or writing an item description on your ecommerce website, the exact things you need to include may vary. There are two things to keep in mind when you’re creating your own checklist:
- Your task is to create a coordinated mechanism that explains what and how to do it in stages.
- All items on the checklist must be interconnected. You cannot pile everything into a table without a coherent system.
To create a working checklist, you must first split the whole process into smaller steps. Write down all the actions that you perform, up to the most insignificant. You can make a preliminary draft, and then place it on the checklist. This approach is very convenient.
There are good online guides for a writer’s checklist, and based on these, you can customize your own one.
A table is the best format for a checklist. The first column is the checklist points, the second is a completion note, and the third is devoted to the comment indicating problems and nuances. In the future, they can be used as a basis for building a new list, which will take into account the shortcomings of the first.
Main Features of a Good Checklist
When compiling sheets, it is important to pay attention to several points.
One sheet – one process
You should not combine several cases into one checklist. The process should be divided into separate stages and tasks. For a writer, the following types of checklists may
If the checklist is very large, its effectiveness is reduced. When there are more than 20 items in the to-do list, it may seem to the performer that there is a lot of work or it is too difficult. And even if the specialist knows that he can complete the work, it will be psychologically difficult to start it.
Therefore, if there are a lot of points in the checklist, it is better to split it into several ones. Then it will be easier for you to carry out the designated tasks, verify and analyze the results.
Do not use voluminous and detailed job descriptions. If such wording is required, as a rule, a paragraph can be divided into subparagraphs. Pay special attention to the accuracy of the content.
The tasks should be clear for a performer not to perceive them ambiguously, confuse and make a mistake. It is desirable to set tasks using verbs as they will give more clarity to the checklist.
When compiling a checklist, it will be useful to highlight the most important points. You may highlight the most difficult and important points that will influence the outcome of the work. But do not get your checklist too complicated. It will prevent you from concentrating on the main things.
Checklists Templates and Tools
The advantage of electronic checklists over paper ones is obvious. An electronic version of a checklist is always at hand and can be modified and upgraded at any time. This means if you’re a freelance writer, you can work on the go and always have access to your checklists. If you’re managing writers as a business owner, you can get feedback on task progress by looking at the checklist.
The easiest way to create a checklist is to use Google Sheets. This service allows building checklists both for individual use and for teamwork. Besides, there are other efficient online tools for checklists.
This is a simple application with an intuitive interface, available for different platforms. The application provides the ability to create and organize notes, record important things quickly and always have them at hand.
Main the features of Google Keep:
- Checklist: This is probably one of the most common reasons people use Keep.
- Planning: This looks like a shopping list, but it’s not the same. Here you can develop a plan for several weeks, so you will know what and when to do.
- Ideas for work: Keep great for this.
- Random notes to remember: if you need some sort of random list – both short and long-term – you can create it here.
- Synchronization between devices: There is synchronization with your Google account, you can copy/paste text between devices in this way. If you need to get part of the text from the computer to your phone (or vice versa), Keep is the place where you can do this.
Trello is a service for managing projects and personal tasks. It is a simple, free, and flexible visual online tool for organizing work. The maximum effectiveness of the tool is revealed through significantly increased productivity. Ideas and tasks are quickly ordered, structured, everything becomes clear, it is much easier for you to prioritize.
If desired, Trello is transformed into an impromptu CRM, where each client has his own card, contacts, history, and status. It can also become your HR software. Just make sure the writers who work for you check the points on the to-do list and transfer tasks from pending to done.
Trello is quite effective in personal planning to form a To-Do-list, as well as to structure the accumulated information.
The application offers convenient templates to build effective checklists. It is a powerful tool to control the timely execution of tasks. The system is quite flexible, adapts to any field of activity, whether marketing, sales, or personnel management. It will ideally fit into the working scheme of a freelance writer who carries out identical projects and tasks every day.
All work is built around checklists. With the help of the template, you need to create new checklists for a specific task and set deadlines. Progress can be tracked in the appropriate section.
Effective Implementation of Checklists
Before you start working with your new checklist, you need to make sure you’re utilizing it to the fullest. Here’s how you make your checklist effective.
After compiling a checklist, mentally go through all the points. Add missing elements if needed. Arrange the items in the correct order.
A checklist should look attractive. This way it will be more pleasant to work with it.
Organize general access to checklists from any device so that they can easily be printed at the right time.
The Benefits of Checklists
A checklist is a useful tool for improving self-discipline and professionalism. Its advantages are as follows:
- The checklist will not let you forget about the main thing. Any person has limitations on multitasking, memory, and concentration. The checklist protects against them, allowing you to avoid mistakes even in a state of fatigue, lack of concentration, or lack of sleep.
- The list makes it possible not to think about the little things. It allows you to concentrate on more important and complex decisions, including quickly switching attention and starting to analyze the situation if something unplanned happens.
- A checklist helps maintain discipline. This is especially important if you’re a business owner who employs content creators. A checklist will make sure they’re all writing text of the same high quality.
- A checklist reduces the time wasted. When the list lies before your eyes, you can quickly check yourself for points. You don’t have to waste time trying to remember if everything was done.
- Checklists help to avoid errors by inattention and eventually you spend much less time on redoing tasks.
A checklist is a sequence of points to check your writing. Together they represent a single algorithm that leads to an important goal. Such a list is not a magical solution to any task. However, it will optimize the process, while ensuring against most of the errors. Therefore, it is worth thinking about the use of checklists in everyday life and your professional writing activity.