A Simple Writing Tip for the Digital Age

See your text on more than one screen

Melissa Toldy
Nov 2, 2020 · 2 min read
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Photo by Kameron Kincade on Unsplash

Creators struggle with perspective. Sometimes, you can’t see what you’re making, as you make it.

Writers are no different. We say we’re “too close” to the material. To combat this, we distance ourselves.

Time helps. We leave the manuscript alone for a day or a week or longer. We forget some of the lines, and when we read them again, we see the text with fresh eyes.

Writers use other tactics, too, hoping to see their work in a new way. Here are some recommendations I’ve seen:

  • Read the text out loud

The goal is, approach the writing from another angle. I think these common tactics are useful, and I’ve tweaked them, too. For example, I’ve asked friends to read my fiction stories out loud, to me.

Recently, I realized, there’s another easy way to see (and edit) your writing: Use your phone. On a smaller screen, the layout changes, and your sentences truncate at different points.

Maybe this tip is already out there, but I haven’t come across it before, and I think it’s very useful. (Of course, some writers write on their phones. If that’s you, try the reverse: Read your writing on a larger screen.)

I like this editing strategy because it’s simple, and it works. It’s a good way to catch clunky sentences or superfluous words.

Also, if you’re publishing online, you get a sense of how your text will appear on various devices. For comparison, look at the screenshots of my phone and laptop, below.

screenshot of phone screen with text
screenshot of phone screen with text
text on my phone
screenshot of laptop screen with text
screenshot of laptop screen with text
text on my laptop

Here’s something interesting to think about: The words text and texture come from texere, meaning “to weave.” In her book on storytelling, Meander, Spiral, Explode, Jane Alison writes,

“We create passages for a reader to move through, seeing and sensing what we devise on the way.”

The “seeing” is both literal and figurative. By changing the format or layout of your text, you can edit and shape the story, in the process.


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