Welcome to the fourth installment in our Editing 101 series! Today we’ll be discussing how to catch errors. The thing about catching errors is that they can be hard to spot. You can comb through your manuscript ten times, hand it over to CPs and beta readers, go through it again, and still not find that one time you said ‘peak’ instead of ‘peek’ (darn it, homophones!).
So today, we want to share a list of ways we’ve learned to catch errors easier and faster over the years. Here they are!
- Zoom in on your manuscript. I know this might sound odd, but oftentimes, we even write with the screen zoomed in (hey there, 140% Word doc!). It’s so much easier to spy errors that you might have glossed over, especially if you’ve always thought a certain sentence was written one way, but you really rearranged two words by accident, and your brain didn’t comprehend the change.
- And on that note, try changing the font of your novel for a few days. You’ll notice that you see the sentences a bit differently, and thus catch errors you might otherwise not see!
- Read passages out loud. Again, this one seems like a given, but reading passages of your novel aloud can be helpful! Read it to your mom! Read it your cat! Maybe … read it to yourself? (Hey, writers can get a little crazy.) Over this past year, we learned the importance of reading passages aloud, especially because we had to read our short stories aloud in mini editing groups for our university writing classes. It was easy to catch an accidental ‘and’ or an extra ‘the’ that wasn’t meant to be there in the first place.
- Print out your manuscript. It’s been shown that printing out your manuscript will help you catch errors better than just looking at a screen. By printing your manuscript, you can highlight, draw in the margins (if you’re a little bored), and perform a literary surgery on your manuscript! It’s important to take your eyes off the computer screen sometimes; rest your eyes, and maybe look at some good old-fashioned paper.
- Similarly, you can try taking a week or two off from your manuscript. It might be your baby, but it also just might be the best thing you can do for yourself. It gives you a break and also allows you to have fresh eyes when you get back into the revision cave!
- Use other devices to read over your work: iPhones, tablets, your Kindle, whatever it might be. I find that looking on a different screen allows me to catch small errors (a missing “the,” or a misplaced comma) that are usually easy to gloss over. It’s best your manuscript is nicely formatted so it doesn’t look like a mess on your other devices, though.
- Read others’ work. This might seem like a given, but by exploring different writers’ writing styles, you begin to realize how different your writing style might be; do you say “quite” or “really” and why? “Quite” in more British terms might mean “somewhat,” whereas when I say “quite” I usually mean it’s synonymous with “really.” E.g. It was quite fun! (Meaning, it was really fun.) These are more stylistic choices depending on where you live in the world, but it’s eye-opening for your own work.
That’s all for today! We hope you dive back into your manuscripts and catch those errors that even the best of us miss!