Use an Unfamiliar Font for Better Editing

Mmmmm FontsNot to long ago I read a post over at Lifehacker suggesting that changing the font of a document improves your ability to edit it. The logic being that a new font will give you a fresh look at the document. Having just wrapped up a 60-page dissertation chapter, I thought I’d give it a shot.

Typically when I’ve finished a piece of writing I do an onscreen edit and then a printed edit. Finally, after taking a day or so away from the document if possible, I do another printed edit. Usually there are many more steps in that process, but that is the very simplified version. With the chapter I just finished I changed the font for that final printed edit from Times New Roman to Comic Sans MS because it was different enough from the original without being hard to read.

And I have to say that the change in font seemed to help. Obviously I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have caught the errors that I did using the original font. But it certainly seemed like some types of problems stood out more clearly because I wasn’t simply running my eyes over text they had seen many times over.

The technique seemed most helpful for the types of errors that hide in plain sight. I caught misplaced or missing apostrophes, words that were supposed to be deleted at some point but managed to hang around, and words left in the wrong order after some earlier edit changed the flow of the sentence.

Most of all, I think the font change highlighted problems with the little ubiquitous words that our brains take for granted. The third sentence of my very first paragraph began with the phrase, “According to President Jefferson’s specific instructions….” In none of my previous edits had I noticed that the sentence actually read, “According President Jefferson’s specific instructions….”  In all previous readings, some of which were done out-loud, my mind simply assumed that a “to” was where it needed to be.

In the end, I’m thankful that I caught the mistakes and I’m happy to recommend this little piece of advice. Happy editing!