Sixty second writing tips: reverse-proofing gets rid of the editorial gremlins

Matthew Wright

Has anybody run into back-masking lately? Those moments during song-fade outs where the sound engineer splices in a voice, backwards, ostensibly containing a message.

1197094932257185876johnny_automatic_books_svg_medThey date from the halcyon days of rock music when such things were literally done by reversing tapes, though most of them weren’t messages at all – they said ‘werp, weeb, gleep’ whichever way round you played them. And those that were intelligible didn’t say anything useful. I mean, who’s this ‘Paul’ and why should we care that he’s dead?

Still, it’s something writers can learn from. One of the biggest hurdles when proofing for literals –typographical errors – is that meaning overwhelms our ability to see any mistakes in the words themselves.

The answer is to proof the words backwards. Literally. Read the piece, word by word, one at a time, in reverse. Kills the meaning straight off – and with it, gives you a…

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