The Value of Distance in Editing

            You come across times when you need to self-edit your writing every day. It’s inevitable. Self-editing might not sound like anything to worry about, but it has hidden difficulties. The greatest obstacle is how easily you can miss a mistake because your brain knows your writing too well. There is a solution that can help you edit your work successfully. The answer is distance.

Why Distance Is Necessary

            You might be having a hard time imagining how distance can be valuable to you with your writing. As the author of your words, you know them better than anyone else. That knowledge is a natural outcome, but it can be detrimental to your editing. As an editor, you know your work too well, which can cause you to miss mistakes that another person might see. Distance from your writing makes it fresh to your mind again.

How to Create Distance

            There are a few ways you can create distance between you and your work. The first way is to put actual distance between you and the draft. Walk away from your writing for a time and focus on something else. The more time you can take away from your work, the better. I try to let a day go by without looking at my writing before I begin editing. When I do go back, I’m usually horrified by the number of mistakes in my draft. The distance helps me see what I couldn’t before. You don’t have to take a whole day away from your writing for the distance to benefit your editing. Any amount of time is helpful, but I would recommend at least taking thirty minutes away from your writing before you begin to edit it.

            Another way to create distance is by altering the original so that the writing appears new to your brain. Disguising your draft is possible by changing fonts, font size, color, and spacing. I use eleven-point Lucida Sans Unicode in black single-spaced when I write. When I edit, I change the type to fourteen-point Courier New in light blue double-spaced. The changes are enough to make the article look completely different. Printing your work out and editing it manually with proofreader marks is also an option. I have not tried editing physical copy, though, because I write too much to make that a cost-effective option.


            When self-editing your work, distance is your friend. Put time and space between you and your writing so that you can approach the editing process with a fresh perspective. You can also create distance by changing the appearance of the draft so that it looks like a new work. Self-editing might be a tricky process, but it doesn’t have to be impossible if you take preventative steps.

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