Wednesday, May 06, 2020

How to Improve Your Focus When You Copyedit


The most perfect technique is that which is not noticed at all. Pablo Casals.


Every worker has a particular set of skills they can call on, these are commonly known as tricks of the trade. For a plumber this means wrapping the tape clockwise around the threads of a fitting. For a car mechanic this means knowing there are three or four ways to loosen a bolt. All of these techniques are common tricks of the trade and can be found on YouTube. Copyediting wisdom is a bit harder to come by, so here are some techniques and tricks to help improve your copyediting.

Create a Separate Place and Time for Copyediting

When you sit down to copyedit your mindset should be completely different to when you write. Copyediting requires a different frame of mind to writing. Which is why it can be useful to find a different place to edit, than when you sit down to write. Some people prefer the same place, others like going to cafes, the public library, or sitting in the front garden. I concentrate best at my desk, whether I'm writing or editing. Everyone is different.

We all have things going on during the day, but when you have an important document that needs editing, a time slot is required to get the work done. I tend to leave my editing until the very end when my document needs editing and formatting. Which is usually near the end of the week. This way I know I'll have my document ready for publishing on Monday morning.
Transform How Your Page Looks

A trick favoured by many professional copyeditors is to change the look of the page. You do this by using a keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+a) which highlights the entire file, then using the right indent arrow on the margin line, move the right margin to the left.

This alters the way your eyes go across the page. This is because the muscles in your eyes (medial rectus muscles) don't need to work so hard, which means you can raise the point size making it quicker to spot mistakes.

You can also change the look of the page by printing and editing your own hard copy. This is handy if you travel around a lot and don't have easy access to a powerpoint.

Here are some other points recommended by the professionals:
  • Convert to two columns.
  • Alter the font and line spacing.
  • Relocate the right margin so all the text fits on the screen, then zoom out to 120 or 150 percent.
  • Save your file as a PDF and read it as a PDF file.
Let Your Manuscript Rest

This is where you put your manuscript in a safe place and come back to it later. You print out a hard copy and leave it in a drawer or cupboard and come back to it later. Writer Mark Twain was known for having many projects on the go, sometimes as many as three or four. Allowing him to return to his work with fresh eyes, and spot those pesky errors.

Start at the Bottom and Work Your Way Up the Page

This helps focus your brain on the text, not the meaning of what has been written. All you need to do is concentrate on each paragraph separately.

Save Repeatedly

This goes without saying, the sheer disbelief of losing your work should tell you to always save as you go along. I'm working on a few new books at the bottom, so saving my work is paramount.

I always make sure to save two copies, one on the main hard drive, the other on a memory stick. The memory stick is a safe-guard.

Besides your own kind of backup you may find using a cloud storage tool such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud useful. This way your work is easy to access anywhere that has an Internet connection. For a yearly fee you could try using an external storage solution if your file size goes over a certain limit.

Keep Your File Labelling Simple

There's nothing worse than not remembering what you called something. Try using the title of your project, or something similar so that you always remember what you saved it under. Don't complicate your file naming, keep it simple.

The less wasted time you spend, the better, and sooner you can get back to your work. Helping you to stay focused on copyediting and nothing else.

Simple things to remember:

Follow these techniques for more efficiency and benefit.
  • Create a separate time and place for copyediting.
  • Transform how your page looks.
  • Let your manuscript rest.
  • Start at the bottom and work your way up the page.
  • Save repeatedly.
  • Keep your file labelling simple.
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