Editing your own work is a very difficult task. Editing in general is hard, but when it’s your own work you have a tendency to read what you meant to write instead of what you actually wrote. There are some tricks that can make editing easier, however.
Reading aloud helps to see if the sentence flows properly, if the dialogue sounds natural, or alerts you to any clunky words that mess up your writing. Its main benefit is that it forces you to read the words exactly as written, as opposed to what your intention was. Highlight the bit that jumps out at you as not right and go back and fix it when you’re done.
Change the Font
Change your work to a font that you aren’t used to. Don’t pick one that’s hard to read or in all capitals or anything like that; just scroll down the list in whatever word processor you’re using and find one that looks different enough from your usual one—whatever that may be. What this does is makes the words appear unfamiliar, which forces you to read the actual words instead of what you intended to write.
Print Your Work
Reading from a piece of paper is significantly different than reading from a screen. Word processors have some fantastic commenting abilities built into them and make it very easy to delete bits, undo mistakes, or move sections around, yet editing on the page has a very different feel to it. One of the main issues that I have with large scale editing on the screen is that it becomes too much of a strain. The light coming from the screen, the overload of information from all the different buttons and options, and the ease of switching to something else on the computer all mean that my mind gets tired or distracted very quickly. When this happens, I tend to skip sections. I’ll skim read through entire sections with a scroll of the mouse wheel. It’s easier to stay focused for longer when editing in print.
Print on Coloured Paper
Much like the other tricks, printing on blue or green colour paper will help to force your mind to actually read what is on the page instead of what you meant because it looks different. It also helps with some forms of dyslexia. An alternative can be using white paper but a different coloured lightbulb in the room, or a tint screen, to make the paper appear blue or green.
Find whatever strategy works best for you and incorporate all the little tricks and tips that you can find to make editing easier. One thing I didn’t cover here is the break that you should take after writing before you start editing. Firstly, that’s a topic itself—not really a trick—and it’s also one that doesn’t work very well for me. I know why it should work and I know how to make it work but I still remember what I meant from writing a decade ago, so the time and distance doesn’t work as well for me as it does for others. It does make editing easier, but that’s why I use strategies like these ones to help push my editing up another notch.
© 2018 Davina Chime
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Davina Chime is a Thanet-born hopeless romantic.