How to Edit and Proofread Documents on Your ComputerPosted by Nicole
In the old days, proofreading and editing was performed a bit differently than it is today. They used paper – lots of paper – and communicated changes that needed to be made by marking up copy with proofreading marks. While proofreading marks are still taught in professional writing programs – and they are handy to know – the reality is that most of us do the majority of our editing work on computers. Many of us will learn to use the “track changes” tool and never look back.
This post will focus on a few tips on how to edit in the age of technology. If these tips are helpful, please let us know – we love to receive your comments! For more help with improving your writing, editing, and proofreading skills, become a subscriber to our monthly newsletter. Our newsletter is free, as is our new e-book, “Ten Tips for Editing and Proofreading Your Own Copy”, available to all subscribers.
Set Yourself Up
The following tips will be just as useful for anyone spending long periods of time working at a computer – but particularly for writers, proofreaders, and editors who risk eye strain from staring at computer monitors for hours at a time:
- Set up a well-lit work station according to ergonomic guidelines.
- Spare your eyes: they are your greatest asset! Work in a larger font if needed – you can always reduce 14 pt to 12 pt later. Eliminate the glare on your monitor, and for those who need them, remember your glasses.
- Get up every 30 minutes. It’s good for your eyes, your brain, and the rest of your body. Errors occur when we get tired, and we are more productive overall when we take breaks. Use an online timer or set your phone to remind you when it’s time to stretch.
Adapt the Straight Edge Trick to Word Documents
As I learned in a proofreading course, proofreaders do not read for pleasure; they read for typos and errors, line by line, word by word, letter for letter. To help slow down and proofread effectively, proofreaders were always taught to set a ruler on a document to focus on one line at a time.
Using a ruler to read an electronic document on a computer screen isn’t impossible, but it does pose challenges. Few of us have the stamina, no matter how strong our wrists are, to hold a ruler up to a screen for very long. It’s also annoying to have to put the straight edge down every time we need to make a change to a document.
How to edit or proofread a document on the screen? Set your cursor to the end of a line and click down with your arrow key when you’ve reached the end. This will help you keep track of where you are and concentrate on reading slowly. Remember to scroll down through your document regularly so that your eyes are not constantly at the bottom of the document and you are craning your neck to read.
Don’t Rely on “Spellcheck”
Like “track changes”, “spellcheck” is a great tool available to those of us proofreading and editing with word documents. I highly recommend spellcheck, with the caveat that only you know the correct spelling in the context of any sentence. Careful reading is always required: homonyms have a way of sneaking in to documents written by both professional and novice writers. Your spellchecking program will ignore words like, “too”, which is indeed spelled correctly – but unfortunately is incorrect when the writer meant the number “two”.
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