Many years ago, an MIT Media Lab study revealed that people make forty percent more errors while proofreading on a computer screen than on paper.
You can easily confirm this. Simply write a first draft, edit it onscreen, then print and edit in hardcopy. I guarantee you’ll find lots to correct.
Is there a way to make editing onscreen more reliable?
I think so. Years ago, I applied for an editing job at the Stanford Medical Center media relations office. I didn’t get the job, but I learned something interesting.
A woman in the office was editing on a Mac monitor. She had the monitor swiveled to Portrait mode so the long sides were vertical. She had a document adjusted so the type was HUGE. The letters were no less than three inches tall. Perhaps she was visually impaired, though she wore normal-looking glasses; I didn’t ask.
That was fifteen years ago. I’ve often wondered if my copyediting would improve if I could edit in bigger type. But Microsoft Word doesn’t wrap lines of text to allow it, at least not in Print or Draft view.
I never devoted much time to figuring out how to make it work. That is, until a couple days ago when I was faced with editing a press release that had long single-spaced lines of small type.
The graphic designer I work for explicitly doesn’t want me to change the layout of the docs I edit – something to do with calculating space.
Of course, I could simply make the type larger and the margins narrower, then re-set the format when I’m done.
But that’s kind of a…process. I opened View on the ribbon, wondering if there wasn’t a last-ditch solution to setting the screen the way I wanted. My logical brain said no; I was seeing the same old display choices.
Maybe I could simply stretch the Word window across my 22″ monitor and enlarge the type. Ugh, not nearly big enough.
But then I thought, why not click Web Layout view. And there it was – I could make the type really big, with HUGE letters, by pressing Ctrl while spinning the mouse wheel, and Word obediently wrapped the type. Eureka.
Working with monster-size type is a bit hard on the eyes, but if makes my work better it’s worth it, at least for short docs. I found lots of small errors I’m pretty sure would have escaped my attention in small type or even hardcopy.
I’ll check my work when the designer sends the finished layouts to print and proof.