Hard-copy vs soft-copy – a taster of my editing habits

I use a combination of hard and soft-copy editing for the jobs I work. Each method has its accompanying approaches, some of which I’ll outline below.

First, though, a brief look at my editing process. I complete the initial edit on a hard copy, after checking that my contact is okay with me printing a copy. I use this hard copy to mark straight-up errors in spelling and grammar, and I note inconsistencies in layout or word usage. I also tend to highlight things (like place names, and so on) that I want to look up at the soft copy stage.

After one full run through of the hard copy, I transfer my edits to the soft copy, making sure to track my changes and utilising the comment function to note questions, suggestions or explanations. This might seem like double handling, but in reality, it’s a double layer of checks.

Hard-copy specifics

  • Use different coloured pens

Stationery might be a weakness of mine, but when it comes time to edit, having a selection of different pens and highlighters is useful. I tend to use bright colours (that aren’t so bright they’re unreadable) to make my changes stand out, and I use a different colour for suggested formatting changes or consistency checks. That makes everything easier to spot when I begin transferring the changes from the printed document to the file.

  • Read tricky passages out loud

My workspace is often the public library, so I apologies to anyone sitting nearby who has heard me muttering under my breath. Sometimes it helps to read aloud to see if what is printed on the page translates. That can be a good way to pick up on stumbling blocks in particularly complex sentences or paragraphs.

Soft-copy specifics

  • Utilise the find/replace and copy/paste functions

I use find/replace a lot when dealing with inconsistencies within documents, often regarding the hyphenation of words, especially when the document has text written by more than one person. If I find two or so instances of a misspelled word, I usually run a quick find search to check if there are more, and then use the replace function to make them all correct and consistent. Copy/paste is equally handy, and is something I use to ensure words I’m not familiar with, such as a person’s name or place name, are spelled correctly.

  • Run a spellcheck

Okay, so sometimes spellcheck functions can be tedious, but it certainly pays to run one at the end of a soft-copy edit. It can help pick up any straggler errors and, for me at least, provides added peace of mind that the edited document is as error-free as possible.

What works for both

  • Hop around the document

I don’t edit in a straight line, rarely going through the document in a linear order from start to finish. I tend to move around the document, sometimes starting at the end, sometimes picking a particular section. This can depend on the content of the document in question. Sometimes, in very text heavy documents that also have appendices or accompanying figures, I will break up editing large sections of text with looking at an appendix or a table. This maximises my productivity and can be especially helpful in soft-copy editing when my eyes start tiring of reading text on a screen.

  • Leave to marinate for a day

Time permitting, I also like to leave any editing or proofreading job to sit overnight after the first pass. I find this useful in longer documents, where it can become easier for the eye to skip over errors as the document goes on. The following day, it’s good to get back to the document with fresh eyes to ensure as comprehensive an edit as possible.


So, these are just some of my processes for both hard and soft-copy editing – what are yours?


Coming up next week: creating a content calendar – why it’s important to have a plan.


2 thoughts on “Hard-copy vs soft-copy – a taster of my editing habits

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