My #1 editing trick

If you only ever use one trick to help you edit your writing, use this:

Read your work out loud.

Your ear will pick up odd phrasing and clumsy transitions far more easily than your eye will. It also forces you to look more closely at each word, allowing you to pick up on errors in spelling and punctuation that you might have missed during a rushed proofreading scan. Not to mention showing you very clearly where to place commas for clarity, i.e., spots where you pause naturally.

This trick works for complex, jargon-filled legal documents just as well as it does for casual emails. I guarantee, you won’t be disappointed by the results. (Though you might annoy your office animals. My cat always leaves in a huff once I reach this stage in my editing process.)

If you’re a translator, try using this trick for sentences in your source text that read as gibberish your first time through, too. If I had a nickel for every time this has helped me sort out the relationships between cloudy clauses, I could probably retire.

What is your best editing or revision trick? Have you tried this one yet? How did it work for you?

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6 thoughts on “My #1 editing trick

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. I have used a text-to-speech application to help me check my work for years. Having my translation read back to me is now an indispensable part of my checking process. It immediately picks up on repeated words like ‘the the’ which the eye can easily gloss over, and it alerts you to odd-sounding phrases in your translation. It’s also great for checking numbers and identifying omissions in your translation as you don’t have to take your eye off the source text for a moment.
    A word of advice: if you want to try out text-to-speech, find one with a natural-sounding voice and intonation to get the best effect. A ‘computer’ voice does nothing for the quality of your translation!

  2. I agree entirely with Kari about text-to-speech. I use a program called Panopreter, which is easy to use and effective — you can even correct on the screen as it reads — and it has a free version to let you see if it would be good for you.
    There is other software, too, that you can find through Google.

  3. Pingback: All things legal | translation, untangled

  4. Pingback: Make proofreading less painful—literally | translation, untangled

  5. Pingback: Making Proofreading Less Painful—Literally, by Carolyn Yohn | Intralingo

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