Editing and proofreading your own writing are two skills that are essential for all writers to learn and hone. Each of these share a few common tips, however, they are used at different stages in your writing and have separate techniques.
This week I will look at the common tips that both editing and proofreading share. Next week I will cover editing and the last article in this series will cover proofreading.
Common Tips for Editing and Proofreading
One of the most crucial aspects of both editing and proofreading is to get some distance from your writing before you begin.
After you write, put it away for awhile. This can be a few days or a few weeks. If you don't have that much time; take a walk or do something else for a few hours. In order for a writer to have the objectivity that is needed to edit and proofread, you need to walk away from the writing for a period of time.
Change the Document
Before your edit or proofread change the font, font size, and color of your text. Save this as a different document so you have your original intact. Using this tip will help you trigger your brain into seeing the text and content as “new”. In this way you will see more errors that need your attention.
When we read our own writing, our brains tend to show us what it remembers, instead of seeing what is actually written. By tricking your brain into believing this is a new piece of writing, you will be able to find mistakes you would not have noticed before.
Find Your Preference
Do you prefer to edit and proofread on the computer or on a printed page? Knowing this will help you to increase your skills. Either is fine; in fact you can use one for editing and the other for proofreading if that is what fits your style the best.
The importance here is to find out what is best for you and then to use that choice consistently.
Time Blocking and Segmentation
Time Blocking: Before you begin, set aside a specific amount of time to edit and a separate space of time to proofread. By blocking out periods of time you will allow yourself to become accustomed to these essential skills and be able to hone them as you use them.
We are all busy people these days. By setting aside specific blocks of time for each activity you will lessen your resistance, while eliminating stress.
Segmentation: When working on a large writing project like a book, be sure to take different parts of each chapter during different time blocks. As with any kind of review, editing and proofreading in the same order that your wrote the chapters will cause your mind to go blind to many errors. Try working on the last chapter first, or mixing the chapters up entirely.
Lastly, find a quite place to work, and don't rush.