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Motivating Yourself to Edit

Christmasy stuff on a wooden background

The end of the year means two big things in the publishing world: a mad dash to publish everything in process before budgets reset, and the distraction of holiday parties, events, and shopping.

Is it any wonder copyeditors find it difficult to motivate themselves to get their editing done quickly while maintaining quality? We’re ready for fun, too. Pass the eggnog!

So how do you get yourself primed for that edit when you least want to do it?

Be well rested. Burning the candle at both ends will dull your mind, causing you to miss errors that you’ll shamefacedly find in January.

Set up a comfortable workspace. Now is the time to work in that spot where you concentrate best. Maybe it’s your home office, a little-used meeting room or empty cubicle, or your favorite library. If you work in an office, talk to your boss about your needs. Highlight the fact that you edit faster away from distractions and that you want to help the team make deadlines. Consider playing music that gets you into your editing groove, too.

Minimize distractions. Silence your phone and ignore email for a while. If you find yourself getting sucked into social media, try Freedom, an inexpensive app that you can install on your Mac or PC. Anytime you turn it on, it will block you from any website you tell it to for as long as you tell it to.

Once your environment is set, warm up your mind for the edit:

Clean up the file. Get rid of double spaces, change straight quotes to curly quotes, change double hyphens to em dashes, and so on. If you use a cleanup macro, run it. One editor I know runs PerfectIt before the edit as well as after. In addition to easing yourself into a document, you’ll get a jumpstart on your style sheet with the abbreviations list PerfectIt creates.

Format the text. If it’s your job to apply Word Styles to the text or otherwise tag copy for publishing, do that next.

Start small. Edit any standalone copy or independent chunks first. Start with:

  • Front matter
  • Headers
  • Figures and tables
  • Figure and table callouts
  • Captions
  • Pull quotes (not the block quotes, though; they’ll be out of context)
  • Legal copy
  • References
  • Sidebars
  • Acknowledgments
  • Back matter

You don’t have to do them all at once, though. Save some for when your mind starts to wander in the middle of the edit. And don’t start with the abstract or a separate introduction. Save that for after you have a good grasp of the entire manuscript.

Once you jump into the main edit, stick with it for a while so you can build momentum. Take breaks when you start to lose concentration. Think of it like rebooting a computer. Take a short walk or do a quick chore around the house or office. I’ll sometimes knit a couple of rows on a current project, letting my mind wander. Then it’s back to the desk with renewed determination.

It’s no fun staying behind while the parties are going on. The sooner you can find your concentration, the sooner you can finish the job.

Good luck with this holiday season, copyeditors!

This article 0riginally published on November 25, 2013, on Copyediting.

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