Don’t let that screaming screen skew your writing

Don't let that screaming screen bug your writing

Writing and editing on a screen needs some careful thought

Even if you grew up with writing on a computer screen rather than on old-fashioned paper, there are still some issues you need to bear in mind about writing on screen that can skew your writing bigtime … if you let it.

Here are some tips based on my own experience of working on screens for the last 20 years or so, after a paper-based upbringing.

Slow your brain down when you’re typing

Especially if you’re gagging to get the words down because you’re on a creatively inspired roll, slow down. If you try to type as fast as you’re thinking you’re going to miss quite a few important words and phrases. Cool does it. You can always go back afterwards and put the spice back in, that your haste obliged you to leave out initially.

Watch what results when you cut and insert

This is a problem I have endlessly and judging what I see when reading other people’s blogs, articles, posts and other content, it’s something that’s quite widespread.

With screen-based writing it’s all too easy to cut and change your text, inserting bits here, removing bits there.

When you’ve finished doing that, for Heaven’s sake go back and give your text a harsh reality check to make sure there are no stray words hanging around from a previous incarnation that you have forgotten to delete, or other straggling words and phrases that reduce your beautiful prose to a nonsensical babble.

Do your verbs tally with your nouns?

This is another problem related to the cut/insert issues mentioned above.

If you change a sentence from the first person to the second person to the third person or whatever, don’t forget to change the corresponding nouns/verbs so everything matches up.

I know that sounds pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how often we (me too) get that wrong…

Don’t discard drafts

…until you’re absolutely sure you won’t need them.

There is nothing more infuriating than working on the third or fourth draft of a blog or article and thinking, “ah, I mentioned this in the first draft but deleted it because at the time I didn’t think it was relevant,” only to change your mind and wish that you hadn’t dumped the earlier version.

Only dump earlier drafts when the final draft has been published.

Don’t forget about keywords

Much as you might get carried away with the ease and smoothness of writing on a screen, don’t forget that – assuming you want to earn a living in this virtual world – you need to be mindful of the keywords you should be including as reasonable and rational parts of your text.

I tend to forget about keywords and just ramble on, and it’s wrong if you’re blogging for business. You don’t need to go hog-wild and stuff a keyword into every sentence: not only will this bore your readers rigid, but also it will p*ss Google off.

Just use your common sense.

Don’t trust your silly old eyes for editing

Much as you – and I – might think we are sufficiently eagle-eyed to pick out every single goof in our text on screen – uh-uh.

Actually, talking to young university students a lot, as I do, I find this isn’t just an issue of concern to the old farts’ brigade. Even youngsters working on essays, term papers, dissertations et al  find that much as they may be satisfied with their edits on screen, once they print the work out and read it (preferably the next day) they find more goofs and places where further editing is required.

Try it. I bet you that once you print out your next article or blog post you’ll want to give it further tweaks, even though it looked OK on screen when you thought you had finished it.

And if you can’t print it out?

Make a copy of it and change the font. Different typeface, maybe a larger size.

Sounds silly, but because it looks different to you, you’ll perceive it as fresh and new and therefore will see elements within it in a new light.

Anything else?

If you’re really concerned about spelling, grammar, punctuation etc., take a tip from a couple of old friends of mine who have been online copywriters for many years.

Whether on screen or printed out, proofread your work backwards. I don’t mean reading each word backwards (duhhhh…) but looking at the spelling of each word from the end to the beginning.

I know it sounds crazy, but you won’t miss any spelling mistakes that way.

Good luck with your on-screen writing

Do you have any further tips to share? Please do so!

photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via photopin cc