When you are working on screen all day it’s easy to miss things.
You’ve done your checks… done them again, and done another check just to be sure.
If you are lucky someone else checks, and perhaps checks again (hence the importance of a second pair of eyes… editor and proofreader perhaps?).
Then just when you think all is well, you print off the pages and hey presto, an error smacks you right between the chops (well, figuratively speaking anyway).
Don’t despair… there are a few simple things you can do to help:
1. If you can, change the font. Now this obviously won’t work if the document has been typeset (unless you have some fancy software), but at the editing stage save your work, then back it up… then save it again as a new file and change the font to something completely different from the one you’ve been working on. No Comic Sans please (oh, ok… but only if you insist and no-one’s around), this has to be a font that is easy to read, but different in format to the one you have been working on. Perhaps change from a Serif font to a Sans Serif.
The idea here is that the change in font makes the text seem different, so your eyes won’t be so used to it. It may also slow you down slightly and stop you seeing what you are expecting to see.
2. Print it out. Now this may not be feasible if it’s a large manuscript you are working on, but the difference there is in changing from one format to another can be amazing. What looks right on screen can look totally wrong when printed out.
If you can’t print it out is it possible to move from a laptop/pc to a tablet? Even this change of physical format can have you looking at the document in a different way.
3. Read it backwards. Yup. Backwards.
When you have hit the stage where you know the information is correct, and the editing is done, if the project allows for it, read the paragraphs from the end to the beginning. Reading out of context can also help your brain process the material in a new way. Now I don’t mean read it backwards, but move from the end of the document to the beginning, a paragraph or a sentence at a time. You’ll still read it, but again you will be looking at the text in a new way and those little mistakes that are hiding will pop out.
I know this isn’t something that can be done all of the time, after all, deadlines can be tight, but if you have the chance give these three little tips a try. It’s all about stopping the old brain becoming complacent and tricking it into looking at something in a fresh way.