The rule is
Allow half again as much time for editing.
If it took 20 minutes to write it, allow 10 more to check it out.
For me, it works the opposite, if it took 20 minutes to write,
it will take 40 minutes to check it out.
Why I Know What I Know about This Step
I’m probably the last person who has any credibility in writing about this topic–but maybe that makes me the one to whom you should listen. You see I have so many strikes against me in this area–I come from a family of dyslexics. I suffer from the writer’s curse of seeing what I meant to say, instead of what’s on the paper. I’m a big picture person, which means focus on details takes an extra effort–that I’ve had to find ways of building in safety nets to avoid embarassing myself and the people I work for.
Reading for Your Readers (2-4 minutes)
The writing is done, but it’s not over. Time to check for all of the little glitches that occur when words move from your head down through your finger to the screen. We owe it to our readers to give what we wrote a good and thorough reading. Here are some power steps to follow to make sure that you catch all of the errors in the shortest time possible.
- Switch your document into the preview mode.
- Set your browser to a type size at least two sizes larger than you’re used to reading.
- Print the document and read it on paper.
- Run a spell checker on the document.
- Use a checklist to guide you through longer articles.
Printing and reading the document in a larger type size on paper as opposed to on the screen will help you see errors more quickly. Read with a pencil and point to each word as you read it. That will help to prevent your mind from filling in words that you expect to be there but, in reality, are not on the page.
Try to get the basic grammar rules correct, but know this about commas–even the most experienced copyeditors have problems with commas. Be consistent with your use of punctuation and your readers will be able to understand your message.
At this point I copy the document out into a text editor for a spellchecker. I find WordPress spellcheckers to be unreliable. Even if I spellchecked in an offline editor before moving to my blog software, I make changes that haven’t been checked. Checking again is one more safety net that only takes a few seconds, and saves me errors that others would see.
Inputting Changes (2-4 minutes)
If you’re like me, you’ve probably found an error or two. Actually, if you’re like me the number is probably closer to 20 errors. Know this before you start inputting changes. There are three risks I’ve observed from working with professional inputters who have input changes from whole departments of editors.
- Look closely again near any error you found. It’s human nature to feel so good about finding one error that we miss one right next to it.
- Tick off each error as you input the change . Missed changes are a common problem with inputting corrections.
- Introducing new errors at this stage is often a problem. Watch what you input that you don’t accidently add or delete too much. A common mistake is to change a verb that affects the use of the word “to” later in the sentence. For example, if the sentence Ask them to stop. becomes Have them to stop. it is common for folks to forget to delete the word “to” in the second version.
Do yourself and your readers the favor of printing and reading the document again to check that all of the changes have been made and that the document reads smoothly. If you’re as impatient as I am, you want to just publish it . . . but use the few seconds it takes to read it anyway.
The ethic here is spare the reader.
Your readers won’t notice if your work is a few minutes later, but an error will be there until you find it and fix it.
Let me know if you have any questions if your process works in a different way. You might have ideas that will help someone else be a power writer.
Remember every writer’s process is personal. Hope this helps you find out what works best for you.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Introducing Power Writing for Everyone
DonÃ¢â¬â¢t Hunt IDEAS Be an Idea Magnet
Why Dave Barry and Liz DonÃ¢â¬â¢t Get WriterÃ¢â¬â¢s Block
Editing for Quality and a Content Editor’s Checklist
I always use the preview as I’m writing to see how it appears on the screen. And as you, I use spell check.
I actually read my post after publishing, sometimes I still see an error or two.
I think one of the bigger problems with people who write online, especially the “pros”, is that they seem to rush to publish. They forget some of the very basic things that you mention.
ME Strauss says
I know, I have this inner need to get things online to my readers. That training to publish to a deadline is hard to get over.
I read things after they’re online too. In fact, I have a friend who reads everything and send an email to me–a proofreader of sorts. She does it as a favor so sometimes I get it a day later . . . Then I’m unhappy to find out what’s been sitting online that I looked right over.
Even the comment boxes–I wish all of them had an automatic forced preview. When I’m forced to preview, I always find a word missing. 🙂 (she says with a shy smile)
If only my fingers could anticipate what I’m thinking . . .
Thanks, Joe, for adding your experience–you’re right the “pros” sometimes ARE the worst offenders.