Why I Edit in Ink (And Get Better Results Doing It)

I get a lot of use out of my laser printer: I print out entire novels to edit them. I know about the “track changes” feature that Word offers, and I use it in final edits for one of the publishers I work for. Am I just an old soul in a young body?

I don’t think so. I edit in ink because I’ve found several advantages to using this method:

  • Providing feedback to writers about revisions with the track changes features tends to look overwhelming and can be difficult to follow on the page (see image below). If you want your writers to pay more attention to your edits, make it easier for them to understand them.
  • It’s too easy to rewrite for the writer instead of making a note for a writer to come up with his own revisions. An editor shouldn’t try to take over for a writer—that’s not your job and that’s not the way to bring out the best in your writers.
  • When I edit a manuscript by hand that will be submitted to a publisher electronically, it allows me to look over my changes a second time. I can go back to spots I felt uncertain about and double check revisions I’ve made to make sure they’re right.
  • I find it more rewarding to give and receive comments written by hand the same way I feel better about receiving a letter in the mail instead of email. There’s just a more personal element to it that I think both parties can appreciate. Again, the more accessible your edits are, the more likely your writer is to consider and/or accept them.
  • Making edits in ink, just like writing by hand versus typing for me, forces me to work slower. I chose my words more carefully in providing feedback, and that’s a move towards cultivating a more positive relationship with the writer.

The track changes feature in Word has a place, and I hope that in the future it will become more user friendly in receiving edits. But for now, I’ll continue to edit in ink.