Type It Again

There are only two ways a writer can estimate how a sentence will ring in the reader’s head: She can write it, and she can read it.

Most writers’ default is to write the sentence once, then read it again and again, and start tweaking. Over the years, I’ve learned that, often, it’s better to just retype the sentence.

Thousands of times, I’ve moved a line down from the existing paragraph only to type it again in exactly the same way. It’s a different kind of exercise in empathy. Reading a sentence is one thing. Typing it another. Both can allow you to inch a little deeper into the reader’s head.

Of course, retyping sentences also affords you the chance to change some words indeed. Will you use a synonym here this time? Or will — and should it — come out just as it was? Sometimes, you can only truly grasp how a string of words rings the second time around — and that counts for reading them as much as it does for writing them.

In a time when you can not only cut, copy, paste, revert, and undo your work with a single button but actually have the computer draft a sentence for you, then edit it ad infinitum, it’s easy to choose to do less manual labor, not more. It’s also a time when doing the latter might make all the difference.

When the sentence doesn’t sound quite right, type it again — and when the world screams at you to ship more stuff faster, remember that attention and care are never wasted, no matter how loudly the song of mediocrity plays.