Your Printer is Your Friend

by RS on January 12, 2010

If I could only remember that. The reason this post has this silly title is that I have the terrible habit of not printing my work. I’ve done this for years. Instead of wasting paper on my pulp fiction, press releases, or whatever I write, I edit online. Usually I’m pretty good, but on occasion there might be something that escapes my sharp eyes (well, not so sharp–I’ve recently started wearing reading glasses).

About a month and a half ago, a friend asked me to rework some copy that he had written for an organization that he belongs to. He needed a quick turnaround,and I started as soon as I received the copy. It was a fairly simple editing job.  I  cleaned and tightened some of the sentences and added some new material. An hour later it was good to go, and I emailed it back to him. He liked it and submitted to have it appear in the newsletter.

A few days ago, I received a copy of the newsletter. Our piece looked beautiful. And then I read it. Hmm, the lede seemed a little mangled. Hmm, there’s a word missing. Hmm, I needed to insert a comma in one sentence. Damn! If I had printed the piece  and proofread it, I would have immediately caught these bloopers.

Although my friend didn’t catch these minor errors, and the newsletter was emailed to a small audience–who will probably will skim the piece–it’s still embarrassing. If this had been a paying job, I would have lost a client. So shame on me.

Even though this is an elementary lesson for all writers, it’s so easy to fall into this trap. Everything is done via a word processing program that give us the tools to move paragraphs around, cut and paste, and, unfortunately, we sometimes rely too much on spell and grammar check. So, really, it’s a no brainer to print out your work and proofread it one more time on paper.

My advice to anyone who is stingy with the  printer is forget the cost of paper or ink cartridges.Print out your work!  Keep extra cartridges and a ream of paper on hand (I never do).  And while you’re at it, after you’ve printed your work, step away from it for a couple of hours and read it again. You’ll be amazed what your supposedly sharp eyes missed–even with reading glasses.

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