Michael Metts on Proofreading

"Sometimes the stuff you care most about is the hardest."

Sometimes the smallest words are the hardest to get right. That's Michael Metts' focus in Writing is Designing, the book on UX writing he co-authored with Andy Welfle.

Whether writing small bits of copy for interfaces, or working on larger projects like his book, here's Michael's take on proofreading and editing text:

What's your favorite thing you've written recently?

I wrote a new landing page for an email newsletter I'm launching and it stretched me in so many good ways. Sometimes the stuff you care most about is the hardest, but most rewarding, to write about.

What's your standard writing workflow?

Assuming it's for myself and I get to pick the tools, I often start with a first draft on paper, because it actually forces me to draft. Then, I'll use markdown in either iA Writer (short form) or Ulysses (long form) to do a second draft and start editing. Sometimes I'll have big chunks I "save" for latter but really just end up not using.

What's your favorite way to proofread your work and spot things to change?

To me, those feel like two very different things.

I don't have a proofreading workflow, really, aside from reading it back myself 3 or 4 times and then still missing something in the end 🤣. It's a big pain point for personal projects or things for my business because often someone will reach out and say "hey I noticed this is misspelled, love your work BTW" and I wish that I hadn't made that mistake.

For me, spotting things to change involves sharing it with close friends or collaborators and getting their thoughts. It takes a special kind of relationship with someone for them to feel comfortable telling you an idea needs to change or get cut, but those are the people I need in my life.

What do you do with the things you cut?

Hopefully I move on with my life, but sometimes for a longer form project especially, I'll have a folder or group I move those things to in case I want to take a look later.

What's your ideal editing workflow?

It's just a lot of re-reading and trying out new sentences.

Collaborative tools like Google docs if I'm working with someone else. Especially love the suggestion feature.

Way back when there was this amazing tool called Editorially that I still day dream about. It was magical.

Tools aside, it's just a lot of re-reading and trying out new sentences. I know you're supposed to read things out loud but I almost never do.

→ Check out Writing is Designing, the book Michael co-authored on UX Writing with Andy Welfle, and follow him on Twitter @mjmetts.

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