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Why You Suck at Editing Your Own Writing

Typos may make us feel stupid, but science says they make us smart. Yes, you read it right. Smart people are more likely to spell words wrong.

Our brains are so focused on combining sentences and getting the message across that they fail to oversee independent words that end up as typos.

So how do these pesky typos manage to slide through multiple rounds of proofreading our own work?

Science has an answer to that, too.

Our brains are stubborn organs. Once an idea takes form in our mind and we complete the daunting task of translating the thought to words on the page, our brains consider the job done.

Every time we proofread our own work, our brains automatically detect the meaning we are trying to convey. Our minds tell us everything is okay—even with typos present.

Knowing the science may comfort us, but it doesn’t make typos any less embarrassing. So how do we set this right? The answer may save you many hours from the edge of paranoia.

Two tips for proofing your own writing:

1. De-familiarize yourself with your work

If you’re a writer with plenty of time in your hands, this old-school approach might work for you. Trick your brain into believing that your document is a fresh piece of content. View your writing in a form different from how you first wrote it. For example, try printing your document out and proofing on paper. On the screen,  try changing the font and background colors of your writing prior to editing. This rewires your brain to regain focus both on the words and the meaning associated with it.

2. Use an editing tool

If you’re a writer on the go like me, use editing tools that automatically edit your work in minutes. Beyond the basic spelling and grammar check you find in most writing programs, there are more advanced options that offer a deeper layer of editing insights—such as flagging difficult to comprehend passages, weak words or repeated phrases. A quick google search will reveal a number of these supercharged editing tools to choose from, but ProWritingAid by far has worked the best for me. It not only edits spelling and grammar, but also provides in-depth analysis and suggestions to improve my craft.

You can start with the free version to try it out. My boss finds ProWritingAid so useful, she provides me access to the pro version so I can use all the tools. I even used it to improve my blog post! You can get 20% off the premium version of ProWritingAid here.

Our brains, after all, are right. The content makes writing special, but it’s the editing that makes it impeccable. Get it right and savour the essence of your craft.

Quick links from this article:

  1. ProWritingAid

November 8, 2021

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