Too often proofreading is a waste of time. As authors, we already understand the text we wrote (we wrote it after all!) so it is incredibly difficult for us to improve it, unless we proofread with a specific plan. Here’s one of the simplest, most efficient editing tricks that will increase both the speed at which readers can move through your text and their level of comprehension. If you think that dual improvement sounds good, read on.
Look back at what I just did. Instead of leaving “that” by itself as a pronoun referring to “speed at which a reader can move through your text” and “level of comprehension”, I said “that dual improvement.”
So what’s this additional text do? (NOTE: I just did it again—instead of writing simply “this” I said “this additional text.”)
First of all, it corrects one of the more common grammar mistakes people make: having no clear referent for the pronoun this or that. More importantly, it allows the author to scaffold their text as they build ideas from 1 sentence to the next. These micro-insertions allow the author more control over meaning-making as they offer summaries and significance of the previous sentence. They increase reading speed because the reader does not have to stop and think about what “this” is referring to, and they increase comprehension as the summary words explicitly reinforce the initial statement.
So why is this one of the simplest, most effective editing tips? Because it’s easy. We are all writing with software where finding “this” is as simple as a few key strokes.
Spend 5 minutes and add summary words after orphaned “this” and “that”. It will be the fastest, easiest effective editing you can do. That said, don’t be surprised If it takes a bit longer as often times even the writer was unsure about what they were trying to say and the use of an ambiguous “this” was a crutch used to hide a place where your thinking was unclear. In this case, making the correction takes a bit longer, but it is even more important.