Editors often talk about coming at a piece of text with “fresh eyes” in order to see things in a different way. What this means, and what Igarashi is playfully hinting at, is that we have to hack our brains in order to get past innate blind spots and re-orient towards spotting mistakes.
I am not an excellent copy editor, but I’m ok. It’s so interesting to thing that perfection in the English language basically requires that we ignore the natural programming of our brain. At the writing center that I work for, we teach tricks. Always have someone else look at you paper. When we are in sessions, we have students read out loud as we follow along. Frequently the result is us catching discrepancies in what the writer thought they wrote (and what they subsequently read out loud) and what is written. The brain is playing tricks. When you are checking spelling, it’s helpful to read your sentences from the end to the beginning. It’s no wonder that silly errors slip through in newspapers and the like. After spending a couple of hours reading articles, things no longer stand out. If you are working speedily, all the more likely to miss the basics.
Editing not a matter of knowing the rules; I’ve studied and studied grammar books for my position at the Writing Center, and I still will have probably included an error in this short post. Our brains are just like autocorrect because sometimes they work quickly and efficiently but other times they massively confuse thing. So kudos to all the copy editors out there. Anyone have any tips and tricks?