EDITING: On your PC monitor or from a hard copy?

What’s your preference–and why? Which are you better at? How does your accuracy compare?
I always thought editing a letter, proposal, or report on a PC screen was much more efficient, but when I print out a hard copy, I discover mistakes that I otherwise would have missed. Any explanations?

I don’t know why it works that way. Unless it’s something I’m doing quickly (such as an 800-word game review), I print it out and edit it. Writing is not for the paper conservative. :slight_smile:

Possibly because of the conditioning you’ve picked up from television. Typically, the overall action and sound is more important in a television program than the minor details. Unless you’ve trained yourself to examine fine details on an electronic screen (as a CAD/CAM user of desktop publisher might), you’re more likely to miss minor mistakes.

Reading printed text, however, requires attention to minute detail.

It’s a theory.

I work onscreen, but then print out a copy to proof and do final corrections.

twicks, professional editor

You’ve got to have a hard copy. I had a misspelling on a cover of a book once because I only looked at it as a low-res .pdf.* The good news is that no one caught the misspelling for six months after the book, a relocation guide to a certain Midwest city, was published. The bad news is that the guy who caught it was the president of the certain Midwest city’s Chamber of Commerce. The moral is, always get a hard copy.

*That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. My editing skills had nothing to do with it. I was young, and inexperienced. The moon was in Virgo, and that’s never a good sign for editing. My head hurt. There’s more than one way to spell “information”. You didn’t see it either, you stupid twit…

I’ve got to do it both ways, since the mistakes I catch are different. I’m more likely to find consistency problems with hard copy, but I find those damn little typos better on the screen. I tend to skip over them in hard copy. Also, on screen you can fix them right away.

However, I have a third way of editing, which is reading the piece aloud. I find lots of problems there I miss after three passes through both of the other methods.

(With posts, however, my editing technique is hitting Submit Reply )

What twickster said.

Also, like Voyager, I catch different mistakes on screen vs. in print.

I’m a senior technical writer/editor for a software company, and the other writers here do the same thing. For the most part, though, the developers and engineers are all about hard copies: whenever I ask one of them to look over something for me, they ask for the soft copy but then print it out. :slight_smile:

I work in publishing and we do it both ways; onscreen first, then page proofs. It took awhile to get used to doing it onscreen, but now I like it for some projects. However, I still believe the pencil and paper method is the most accurate way to go.

Professional writer who started with a manual typewriter 30+ years ago here.

Spell-checking is like air-conditioning: once you have it you can’t imagine living any other way.

And then I print it out and go over the hardcopy. Accept no substitutes.

I thought I was the only one who did that.
I catch what I can on the screen and then go to hard copy. I wish I could do it all on the screen but for some reason I just need my hard copy.

Another professional editor, checking in.

I also do it both ways, because you do indeed catch different things using different methods. I tend to see formatting inconsistencies onscreen and catch the dumb little typos in print.

Furthermore, as a mildly dyslexic editor (and yes, there is such a thing :wink: ), on the last round of review, I will read the document backwards. That is, I’ve already read for grammar, syntax, usage, flow, etc. That’s how I catch the dumb little typos where tow letters that shouldn’t be are transposed. (See example in that last line, which I left in on purpose, just for the other Doper Editors, or Dopitors. That’s also an example of why Spell Check is about as useful to a decent editor as a second bellybutton.)

It also depends on my deadline and how much time I have. Sometimes, there’s only an online glance. We’re all required to do a “cold read” on every single round. Often, I refuse because you get burned out on the same copy and will miss things anyway. I’ll do a cold read on about every other round and on the last round. The other rounds, I mark “lukewarm glance” or “tepid gaze” instead of “cold read.”

I crack myself up.

I’ve read your posts before. You’re obviously an excellent writer.

So please speculate why hard copy editing is different. Bryan Ekers has a good theory. Care to offer yours? I just don’t get it.

My job involves copy editing news stories, and I write fiction and non-fiction at home. I’ve even line-edited a friend’s novel manuscripts, and I’ve found it’s best to use all these methods (on-screen editing, paper editing and reading out loud, especially useful for dialogue).

Onscreen editing is wonderful not only for spel-chekng wurds, but for moving around paragraphs and rewriting whole sections without resorting to scissors and tape. But it has one disadvantage: you can’t indicate your corrections.

Sometimes, I like being able to see clearly the original (printed) work, and my handwritten changes. I also like making notes in the margins about plot holes, reminders to get more data and whatever else crosses my mind. Editing on paper is more flexible.

I’m also a scittery writer. I like to roam about while thinking, staring off into space, do nothing but think, then race back and bash out what comes out (my wife, btw, calls this “napping”). Sometimes, I need to do the same thing while editing. While waiting for my son to come home from Kindergarten on the bus, I spent 15 minutes in the sun, sitting on the curb, editing a collection of columns. Iit’s a lot easier than lugging around the computer and extension cord

My theory is that sometimes a change of format is needed just to force your brain not to gloss over minor mistakes. When reading a hard copy, I tend to focus more.

Also, hard copy is generally easier on the eyes which is very important at 3am.

Hmmm. I’m starting to write again now, after spending 15 or so years as a professional programmer. Interesting to see how many of you edit with hardcopy. I’ve been wondering if I should do just that.

Heretofor, I’ve been editing purely on screen. I find it easy, but then again, 15 years of editing code on-screen has given me some practice.

Maybe I’ll print some stuff out and see if I do indeed catch anything else.

That’s my theory as well. I edit over and over on screen until I think it’s perfect; then I print it out and catch the rest.

Same thing with posts. I can re-read it three or four times in the text box, but after I hit preview and read the formated version I usually find one or two mistakes I missed [that are unrelated to coding].

I don’t consider spell checking editing. It’s kind of like finding syntax errors with a compiler, useful, but when you’re done you’re not even 5% of the way there. You missing one or tow things, for instance. :slight_smile:

When I read hard copy, I’m more involved in the story, so I miss the details. On screen I concentrate on every word, though. But because the window is smaller on the screen, I miss global stuff like reusing phrases close together. BTW, I brought this up in my critique group last night, and a lot of the members read their work aloud also.

Another reason I like hard copy is that you can annotate better, like saying a sentence or paragraph need to be rewritten, without doing it right there. On screen I’m afraid a note I’d add would get lost, and I also don’t want to mix editing with rewriting.

Like Exano I started on typewriters. I wonder if those who have always written on a computer have a different preference from us geezers.

This is what I do, too.

Elenia28, not a professional editor.

For the most part, the only part I did on the computer would be automagic checking. Checks for word replacement, continuity, flow, style consistency, etc. would all be done in hard copy.

One big advantage to hard copy when working with newspaper layout or program code is the ability to print out everything, lay in on a table (or a floor), and look at it all at once. Get a highlighter and trace out the text jumps in the newspaper or the logic of the program.

Both have their advantages, and should be used accordingly.

I used to hate MS Word’s “track changes” feature (I thought it cluttered up the screen), but now I find that it can come in quite handy.

For example: of the five writers in my office, I am the one who copyedits our corporate communications documents (press releases, etc.). Our corp comms person can be a little touchy, so I like to use “track changes” for my edits and comments: it’s easy for her to see my suggestions and questions, and equally as easy for her to accept or reject them. That feature works well when I’m proofreading proposals, too, or with any document where there is a chance that one of my edits might inadvertently change what the author intended to say.

I’ve never used “track changes” on one of my own documents, though. Might be an interesting experiment sometime, to watch the evolution of a soft copy. :slight_smile: