It’s becoming more and more common these days for proofreaders and editors to be asked to work directly from a computer screen. There are many advantages to working in this way: it makes it simple and convenient for you to work remotely, and with a laptop you could do this virtually anywhere – in a café, on the train – as there’s no need to be anywhere near a printer. Working on screen is more ecologically sound too, as it saves paper, and with the increasing pressure on businesses to be greener we’re likely to see the trend for paperless proofreading continue.
Unfortunately, on-screen proofreading brings with it certain pitfalls. As the resolution of a computer screen is significantly less than that of a printed page, it’s more difficult to see subtle details. It’s also easier to lose concentration when you’re reading from a computer – even the simple act of scrolling can break your chain of thought, not to mention the email alerts and dialog boxes that keep popping up everywhere.
It’s important that we bear in mind the challenges of on-screen proofreading and adapt our way of working so that we can be as accurate in reading from soft copy as from hard copy. Here are some tips to help you hone your on-screen skills:
- To make on-screen text easier to read, consider magnifying it, for example to 110%, or whatever size suits you.
- Read one line at a time, and pay particular attention to the point where a sentence runs on to the next line.
- Scroll down slowly, line by line. This will help your focus and make reading easier.
- Hold a ruler, or other straight edge, up against the screen to help to keep your eyes from wandering.
- Subvocalise! Whisper out loud to yourself, or at least hear the words in your head as you’re reading them. This will make you pay attention to the difference between what you think the text says and what it actually says.
- Take mini-breaks at regular intervals – you’ll probably need to do this every twenty minutes to help you stay focused.