When I read books, blogs, or even answers like this, the advice is usually always the same: To revise properly, you must print out your manuscript, and revise on paper. The thinking goes that one cannot revise properly on the screen, and if you attempt to do so, you will miss things.

My question is: Is this always true? Is it possible to revise directly on the screen, without wasting a lot of paper?

  • 2
    Someone stated that people see one thing on the screen and another on the paper. "Screen blindness" was the term used there. Unfortunately, I am not able to provide the correct source coordinates.
    – Nerevar
    May 22, 2012 at 6:51
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    Guidelines are guidelines are guidelines. If something else works better for you, that's perfectly fine. If you're concerned, try both ways. This comment applies to any question asking "Is this (writing advice) always true?" - the answer is "no."
    – Standback
    Jun 24, 2012 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


Because I said so myself, let me answer your question:

No, you do not have to.

If you look at the answer you linked to or at mine above, you see that they suggest techniques which aren't easy to follow on screen. Both answers suggest to mark your printed text using pens one way or another.

Printing out, grabbing pens, start marking is one thing: easy. If you want to do that on screen, you need special tools (maybe built in to your word processor, maybe not). It's more tedious in most cases.

But there are special tools for doing this. Most of the markings I describe in my answer are available in the word processor "Papyrus Autor". The creator of that marking technique (Eschbach) worked together with the Papyrus team, so you do not have to print it out anymore (if you buy "Papyrus Autor" and you write in German).

So if you do not want to use these techniques or you have a way doing it on-screen, you do not need to print them. Only if you want to get a new perspective.

That's another reason, why printing out is suggested. You have a different look on your story. But to get a new perspective, you also can reformat it and read it on-screen. Instead of Courier 12pt, use Times 8pt, 50 lines instead of 30 a page or whatever.

New perspectives improve revising, because your text is placed on a spot where you do not expect it. Just moving the paragraph from the beginning of a page to the end, can show you what's wrong with it, because your mind has to rethink.


I think you should do both.

You will, without question, catch things on paper you don't see on the screen. It just looks different. I don't know why, but many years of experience have shown me this is true.

However, you can also do a pass while reading it onscreen. I would use this method as a way of getting back into the book at the beginning of a session: you reread what you did the session before, or a section or two before, so you can clean up any obvious errors made in haste or connect dots you might have overlooked.

Buy inexpensive paper, duplex, and recycle.

  • It's probably the physical feel; I just love the pencil and paper together. I bet that would change with tablets though... To me, the biggest problem with on-screen editing was that the keyboard and mouse distract me, even when I forget they're there so it's just the physical (dimensional,...etc) feel of the pen and paper that matter.
    – Mussri
    May 20, 2012 at 15:28
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    In addition to these good answers: You can see more context on (several sheets of) paper. People retain far more when viewing paper than on screen or in a movie. I can't site the source of the research, but when you retain more, that's also more context to look for things like flow and consitency.
    – Joe
    May 24, 2012 at 0:31

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