How do you read for errors? There are so many ways to do this. From using Comments and Track Changes in Word (my favorite method when editing digital text) to the Colored Pen/Highlighter Method , ideas not for the actual grammar errors to find, but for the way to read for them abound.
I thought today I would share a couple more of my favorite methods so that when you go to implement any of my Self-Editing Tips, you’d also have new ideas on how to mark it up.
The Repeat Read-Through
This is exactly what it sounds like, and it is best for short texts. Choose a type of mistake you want to find and fix. Read your text for only that kind of error. Mark the errors as you see them, or fix them as you go. I have no doubt you’ll see other types of mistakes as you read. That’s ok. Fix them when you see them if you think you’ll forget on your next go-round. If not, mark them in whatever way makes sense to you so that you can come back to it. It’s a great opportunity to integrate the Colored Pen Method into your multiple reads. Each read could get a different pen rather than trying to work with all pens at once.
If your text is really long, this might not be the most expedient option. I’m not saying to skip extra revisions on a large text like a manuscript. It’s never finished after one revision. I’m merely saying that you might want to look for any type of error every time you read it. The next method might be more your style.
Post-it Pages (My favorite method when editing print text)
For long texts in print, you can use sticky notes for errors that need revisiting. It’s like the paper version of Comments and Track Changes in Word. Mark small mistakes directly on the text with a red pen–punctuation, typos, misspellings, and the like—or whatever color works for you. For bigger issues that require time and consideration (plot inconsistencies, text that needs to be (re)moved, or topics that need to be researched in order to accurately reference them in the text), make notes on brightly colored sticky notes you’re sure not to overlook. Stick them directly under the line they reference. Remove the note when you’ve remedied it, or mark it as fixed so that you can ignore it on your next read-through. High priority issues get circled directly on the page and accompanied by a sticky note with an exclamation point. Leave these high priority notes hanging off of the page so that you can see them when the document is closed. No way to ignore them, now! Tackle them as time allows.
For mid-sized documents in print, dog ear the pages you need to revisit. You can combine this with any of the other methods. If every page gets folded, this isn’t the option for you. That would be equivalent to the person who highlights every word in a textbook in the name of “studying.” It’s useless. If your document is in its final stages and there are minimal errors, this could work very well. Neat-freaks like me won’t be able to ignore a folded page among crisp, flat pages with no marks.
The Colored Pen/Highlighter Method is also great for academic readings of literature for critical purposes, and is also called color marking. Rather than using the different colors to mark errors, the colors are used, based on a key of your creation, to mark themes, motifs, symbols, any number of literary/poetic/stylistic devices, and whatever else is deemed important in the context of your reading.
Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast