Training Your Brain to Self Edit

The brain is a funny thing. It’s brilliant when its creating, conjuring up amazing ideas and stories out of nothing. But sometimes the brain can be too brilliant.

When we write, our brains know what we’re trying to put down on paper faster than our fingers can keep up. This game of catch-up often leads to mistakes, typos, words missing letters, sentences missing words. Of course, spell check will help with these. But what about that pesky problem in the English language of words that sound the same but are spelled differently? Our brain is our best tool to catch those, but here’s where the too brilliant part comes in: Our brain corrects those mistakes without making us aware of it.

It’s like those games where you can read a sentence even if words are backward. The brain is looking for meaning, not grammar, and as long as it can get the meaning, it doesn’t worry about anything else. And if you wrote those words, with their mistakes, the brain already knows the meaning.

So, how to find and fix the problems? You need to trick your brain into seeing your words as if for the first time. There are lots of methods:

• Print out the pages and read on paper. Seeing the words in a different medium can jog your brain to concentrate more on the details.

• Change the font or color of the words on the screen. This can push your brain to think that what you’re reading is new.

• Read out loud. This is my personal favorite. By forcing your mouth to actually say every word on the page, you’re forcing your brain to read every word.

Next time you’re editing your own work, try these tricks to find and fix more errors.

Yellow Bird Editor Samantha Clark also blogs at