Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Battle between the Screen and Paper

I've been working as a writer for the external relations department at the Marriott School for almost three months now and I LOVE IT!

As a writer it should come as no surprise that I also put on an editor hat frequently; scrupulously evaluating my own writing and that of my co-workers. A question that has plagued my mind over the last couple months is:

"Why does printing a story make it easier to find mistakes and generate ideas for improvement when it's in hand opposed to the screen?"

After writing an alumni highlight for the magazine about an alumnae working to make her city greener, I thought about what I could do to be a little more eco-friendly.

So I tried something different - I self-edited my completed first draft on my computer, instead of printing it. At first I was all aboard and felt pretty good about myself. With a half smile my thought bubble was something like this, "yeah, I just saved another sheet of paper."

But after a few "greener" self-edits, I realized the edits I got back from my peers had errors I would generally catch. Simple punctuation mistakes or repetition of words in a paragraph, to name a couple. I also recognized my complete inability to edit on my co-workers screen while helping her with a specific question. It was as if I couldn't even see the words - I just couldn't connect with her screen. So I went back to printing and things seemed to go back to normal.

Which leads me back to the question, what makes the same words and punctuation stand out more on a printed page? And why?

I'm not the only one who has asked the question. I found this e-mail discussion among professional writers about the topic. I related with many of the writers comments, but felt particularly aligned with Robert's:
"I still find the printed word of a different texture than the word on CRT (cathode ray tube). I find this neither good nor bad. While I cannot read large amounts of text on the screen, I can write them. And edit them. A different kind of fine tuning comes when I hold the words in my hand."
I believe my style can be labeled as a paper heavy hybrid. Here's the process:

I edit on screen while the story is in development, until the first draft is complete. The words hit ink for the first time and my green or blue pen comes out and I see the story with new eyes. After changes are made it's printed again and sent to begin the official editing process, with a peer edit. Penultimately a printed copy goes to one of two supervisors and after as many revisions as it takes, a (hopefully) final printed copy goes to the head of the department.

How do you edit what you write?

Do you find a difference in editing on screen versus on paper?

Do you find certain types of corrections through a particular method?

1 comment:

Michelle said...

A) You are the best little writer. B)I agree that printed, hard copies are easier to edit. The errors have more permanency that motivates you to correct them.