The morphology of terebelliform polychaetes was investigated for a phylogenetic study focused on Terebellidae. For this study, specimens belonging to 147 taxa, preferably type material or specimens from type localities or areas close to them, were examined under stereo, light and scanning electron microscopes. The taxa examined were 1 Pectinariidae, 2 Ampharetidae, 2 Alvinellidae, 8 Trichobranchidae, and 134 Terebellidae, which included 8 Polycirrinae, 15 Thelepodinae, and 111 Terebellinae. A comparison of the morphology, including prostomium, peristomium, anterior segments and lobes, branchiae, glandular venter, nephridial and genital papillae, notopodia and notochaetae, neuropodia and neurochaetae, and posterior end, was made of all the currently recognized families of terebelliform polychaetes, with special emphasis on Terebellidae. A discussion of the characters useful to distinguish between genera is given. This character set will be used in a subsequent phylogenetic study (Nogueira & Hutchings in prep.).