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Color Code your Writing

color code your writing
color code your writing

A piece of writing is seldom completed on the first try. It usually takes several sessions before an email feels ready to send or an article is ready to submit. One trick I have learned is to color code notes within my draft. That way, when I come back to it, I know what I should do next. 

I mostly use two colors for my highlight notes: yellow and green. I write notes or instructions to myself in yellow highlight. When I’m editing, I use green highlight to mark where I left off so that I know where to start the next editing session.

I use other colors to highlight related ideas. I assign a color to the word or phrase and use the same color throughout the document so that when I edit, it is easy to cut and paste ideas that go together. It also helps me notice if I am repeating too often.

I use yellow and green often enough that I no longer have to include a color key to explain them to myself, but for any other colors I use, I include in a color key at the top of the page to explain what they mean. The top of one of my works in progress might look like this:

Example of a Color Code key

Cut and paste these together

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More Tips for Color-coding your Writing

Although it is not color-coding, another trick is that I use capital letters to fill in space for something that I want to come back to later. For instance, I write “X” to take the place of an example I want to include but can’t think of right off the bat. If this happens more than once in a document, I use any capital letter as a placeholder. I might even use repeated capital letters such as “CCC” because they are easier to spot when I come back to fill in the blanks. The idea is to keep writing even if I know that an idea is missing so that I can continue the workflow because, otherwise, I’ll stop to think of the example for so long that I forget what I wanted to write next.

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Color-coding keeps track of what’s pending in a document so that I don’t have to rely on my memory. This is particularly helpful when I’m working on several documents at the same time or if writing or editing sessions are far apart.


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How to Color Code your Writing

Vigimaris Nadal-Ramos, E.d.D
Vigimaris Nadal-Ramos is an English-Spanish editor, translator, blogger, and professor. She has business experience and a doctorate in education, with a concentration in curriculum and teaching of English as a second language.
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