The Write Way to Fill Out a Check

With today’s quick ways to pay, such as credit cards & online transfers, writing personal checks is like a lost art. However, on the rare occasion you need to use a paper check, here are some tips on how to do it correctly.


Being consistent will help identify check fraud, should it ever arise. When it comes to dates, some people put the month first, while others use the day. To avoid confusion, spell out the month in that field. Also, double-check the year during the first few months of the year, when you’re still getting used to the date changing.


Use full names and avoid acronyms whenever possible. If the check is to more than person—a wedding gift, for example—put the preposition or between the names. If you write Jon Snow and Cersei Lannister as payees, both must endorse it. If you write Jon Snow or Cersei Lannister, then either party can. Also, if it’s for a soon-to-be-married couple, use the names from the invitation. Even if one spouse is going to take the other’s last name, that process may take a while. The same principle applies to children who don’t have accounts—write their names followed by or and the parent’s name so the check can be cashed. And always use a pen to prevent any unauthorized alterations.


The two amount fields confirm one another. For the number in the box, start at the far left and fill the entire space. Make clear distinctions between dollars and cents with decimals. Clearly spell out the intended amount. Add a horizontal line through any empty space at the end to prevent unauthorized additions. If you make a glaring error, write VOID in big letters across the entire check and start a new one.


It’s optional and mostly for your records. However, it can help you avoid payment disputes—if your landlord says you didn’t pay your rent in June, but you have a carbon copy of the check that reads June rent payment on the bottom, you’ll be in the right. If you have an account or invoice number with a utility company, putting it on the memo line will help connect the check and the payment stub if they get separated.


These have power, because a check isn’t valid until signed. Complete all other fields first and then write your signature when you’re ready to give it to the payee. With joint accounts, either party can sign. Once again, consistency will help prevent fraud.