I must’ve stared at that Word document for almost two hours straight Wednesday. I was writing an article for a client, using beautiful and powerful words and making sure the flow was nice and smooth. I had read it over and over again to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. They were going to love it.
At one point I finally let myself go to the kitchen and get a nice glass of ice tea, and when I returned to my desk, there it was: a spelling error right in the title. Spellcheck didn’t catch it. (It was a word, after all, just not the word I wanted to use.) How did I miss it before? I would definitely be sending this piece to a fellow editor for proofing of course, but I wanted it to be in the best shape possible before then.
So I started thinking: How can we self-edit to produce our best work?
1. Walk away, just like I did on Wednesday, or work on a different project for a while. Taking your focus away from the page you’ve been staring at will allow the words to look fresh when you return.
2. Change the font. If you’ve been writing in Arial, change your font to Verdana. A simple change of scenery might bring out mistakes that you’ve been missing.
3. Print it out. Again, changing the format from your computer screen to actual paper will allow your brain to see your words in a different way, allowing you to catch and fix errors before it’s too late.
4. Read it out loud. Sometimes our minds think, “I wrote this, I know exactly what it says.” But don’t let your mind read when it expects to see. Read. Each. Word. Individually. Mistakes like omitted words or overused phrases will jump from the page.
5. Read it upside down. I don’t mean stand on your head and read it, I mean start from the bottom. After working on something for a while, our brains expect to see it in a certain way. But by reading from end to beginning, you’re challenging your brain to see what’s really on the page (including mistakes).