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by Daniel D. Beck is a checklist to help you write a README file that helps readers feel confident about your project. If you write a README by following the checklist, then your readers may more easily identify, evaluate, use, and engage with your project. Unlike README templates, this checklist helps you write the most important things first, not only what appears first in the file. You can use the checklist for both closed- and open-source projects.

For more about how this checklist was created and its use, see the talk I gave at Write the Docs NA 2016, Write the Readable README.

You are free to copy, modify, and distribute this checklist, even for commercial purposes, without asking for permission. Please adapt this checklist for your own use. See Public domain dedication for details.

How to use the checklist

View the latest version of the checklist at:

This checklist is a READ-DO checklist. If you're starting a new README file, follow the checklist like a recipe, reading each step and completing it, in order. Alternatively, if you've already started a README file, you may find it useful to treat the checklist as a DO-CONFIRM checklist, confirming that your README matches the elements of the checklist after you've finished writing.

With a few exceptions, the checklist is agnostic about what order things appear in your README or even what kind of project you're documenting. Your README may cover other topics not covered by this checklist; the checklist covers only those topics I found to be essential for README files.

Contributing to this checklist

If you have suggestions for improving the checklist, please open an issue or pull request on GitHub.

Public domain dedication

This work is dedicated to the public domain (CC0 1.0). To the extent possible under law, Daniel D. Beck has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to the README checklist. See the LICENSE file for all the legalese.


A checklist for writing READMEs