“Check quotation marks to be sure that all are paired and that there are no doubles within doubles.”
“Check parens to be sure that all are paired and that there are no parens within parens.”
These are two items on my copy-editing and proofreading checklist.
If you’re working on paper, these tasks require a keen eye and concentration.
If you’re editing on screen, Microsoft Word’s “Find and Replace” feature can help, but there’s one problem with the default operation of this tool: The search box will shift around on the screen so that the item it finds will be in view. However, when looking for pairs of quotation marks or parentheses, you want both of them to be in view at the same time, and the shifting search box is likely to cover up one of them. (See the first screen shot:* The search box stopped at the first quotation mark it came to, and it shifted to keep the quotation mark in view while covering up the other quotation mark in the pair.)
I stumbled onto a way to avoid this problem: search up from the bottom of the document. The search box will stay put at the bottom of the screen, and the item it finds will be at the top. If the other quotation mark or parenthesis in the pair is not in the same line, you’ll have to scroll up slightly to have both in view at the same time. (See the second screen shot: The search box stayed at the bottom of the screen, where I positioned it when starting the search; I had to scroll up one line to bring the second quotation mark into view.) I’ve found this to be less bother than continually moving the search box so I can see both quotation marks or parentheses at the same time, which is what I have to do when searching from the top down.
* Both screen shots are from Elin Gursky and Boris Hrečkovski, eds., Handbook for Pandemic and Mass-Casualty Planning and Response, NATO Science for Peace and Security Series, Sub-Series E: Human and Societal Dynamics—Vol. 100 (Amsterdam, Netherlands: IOS Press). I copy-edited the book, and the lead author, Elin, kindly gave me permission to use it as an editing sample.