An Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary 11-18-20: Proofreading Tips and Eye Strain Busters for Error-Free Biz Communications

Working remotely – as many of us are continuing to do eight months into the COVID pandemic – means that many of our communications will continue to be digital. I’m referring to written exchanges. We all use Zoom, Skype, WebEx and similar platforms for virtual meetings, of course, but those are generally not ongoing over the course of the workday. Discussions with team and coworkers take place via chat during virtual meetings, text messages, direct messages (DMs) via social media, emails … the list is really endless.

Knowing that I primarily edit business copy for a living, people increasingly ask if it really matter if work emails, text / chat / DMs error-free and grammatically correct? My super-short answer: YES!

Your written communications, no matter how brief, are a reflection of work commitment and professionalism. Even if the recipient says nothing about a typo-filled message, such errors do make an impression. If you didn’t care enough to proofread an email, will you truly focus on the details of the task at hand?

Keeping copy error-free is not rocket science. Here are a few straightforward tips to help:

  • After writing something … even the briefest of texts … let that copy sit before pressing “send”! Walk away, do another task, for at least five to 10 minutes (or longer if possible) and then check for typos.
  • Get someone else to review your messages! A second set of proofreading eyes is always indispensable.
  • Spell check! While far from perfect, the spell check function is a good backup to catch basic grammatical and spelling issues.
  • Slowly read the copy OUT LOUD. Repeat! Your ears may catch what your eyes missed.
  • If you’re feeling really ambitious, try reading the text backwards. A neat little trick that works wonders.
  • For more pointers, check out my previous blog on this topic.

And, finally, an essential and often overlooked action that helps globally with regard to business communications of all types:

Reducing eye strain!

Staring too long at that laptops, tablets, smartphone screen is not a new issue. But add in Zooms, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, etc. to replace in-person meetings during COVID and eye fatigue increases exponentially. Unsurprisingly, eye strain also impedes your ability to accurately and effectively edit and proofread your messages (and all other copy, too).

Remedies include changing the angle of your laptop as well as your posture and distance from the computer, filter screens and apps, eye drops, and even glasses that block blue light!

Here are articles with these and other easy-to-implement solutions that will help both you and your partially or fully remote K-12 child:

Do you have a terrific proofreading or eyestrain-reducing tip? Share it in the comments below!

An Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary 9-15-20: 1 Planned Change (Domain Name), and 2 Unplanned (New Website Theme, Creating Second Home Office)

You have a goal in mind, a task to complete. A well-thought out course of action to follow. And everything goes according to plan.

Then there are the times when the opposite occurs, and you just have to roll with the changes.

When a Domain Name Change Becomes a Website Theme Change (and More)

This is the tale of the end-point of my website revamp, and how the exercise – very unintentionally – became a full-on theme change.

The last phase of my website revision / reorientation (i.e. editing and proofreading as the main professional focus, and short-form writing as a secondary offering) involved a domain name change. But the transfer proved challenging. In an effort to resolve this issue, as well as to save some money and streamline processes, I switched web hosting providers … which, happily, did allow for to become

But my website’s existing theme from 2018 did not transition well. Sigh.

In frustration – and with encouragement from a good friend and virtual teammate Jess Dewell of Red Direction – I tried out a couple different, cost-free themes supported by the new hosting services … and, surprisingly, rather quickly found a really great option!

This change also necessitated another: much as I liked my previous logo, it just did not work with the fresh theme. And I actually created a new logo myself using an online design site called DesignEvo. It and the new theme look pretty nifty together:

The mobile appearance of my new website theme.

I am still tweaking the new site, because some elements of the previous one did not make it through intact. But that’s pretty much cosmetic, and now that my son’s middle school is in session I will have the time to put the finishing touches on

Fall school openings the perfect segue to that second unexpected project…

Creating a Second Home Office for Your Kid and Yourself, from Scratch!

My husband is still working from home – in what used to be my home office. (Another sigh.) Over the summer my son and I were driving him to distraction whenever entering the office to retrieve something we just printed. Then in early August, my husband and I chose the fully remote school option for our son through January.

All three of us. At home. Through the beginning of January, at least.

We required a second home office setup, pronto … or at least, in place before school began! The procurement and setup of the necessary accessories is a short saga in and of itself.

Printer for my 8th grader (and myself). After much research, I decided upon an updated version of the current printer – an Epson WorkForce ST-4000. The ST stands for “Super Tanker” for the large quantity of toner ink it holds – up to two years’ worth. (We’ll see.)

And apparently every other parent and everyone else still working from home since March snapped up this printer (and every other brand and model too). At the first retailer I ordered from, the printer was on backorder, a fact I didn’t learn till over a week later. Luckily I found one left at GCTECH, and after checking via chat that it actually was in stock I ordered … and they shipped out the very same day. Great service!

Not so great: the printer connectivity on my kid’s computer. But that was an issue with the computer itself, not the printer. After SIX HOURS, though, I got everything. (Seriously, I should get paid for this.)

Printer stand with organizer drawers and castors for all of my son’s school binders and materials).

Ordered one online that never arrived. Couldn’t get through to their customer service line, so I called a local brick-and-mortar location to get help. The store actually had the stand in stock – they didn’t before – so I did a curbside pickup. Set it up … and the next day the online order arrived. Sigh.

(The tardy one is now in my former home office, filled with my husband’s business files. A definite improvement over the unsteady tray table and fold-out chair he was using.)

Low-profile power strip / surge protector for the four different items now plugged in at my son’s schoolwork / study area: computer, printer, iPhone, iWatch. Did you know that some low-profile power strips come with screws to be attached out the way, on a wall? I didn’t either, but now I do!

My son’s completed schoolwork station!

Second desk for my son’s room. Sometimes I need to speak with my editing / proofreading clients at length; other times my son will need to study with zero interruptions. For that eventuality, I purchased a small, fold-up desk for my son’s equally small room.

Why fold-up? My kid didn’t want the desk out all the time. Why? Who knows. He’s 13. But I found a very good option on Amazon that required no assembly; once you fold the legs inward, the desk is only three inches wide and can be stowed behind a door.

I set up my own laptop on this fold-up desk several times this past week while editing / proofing blogs and other copy, and to be able to speak during Zoom meetings without disturbing my son during school. In fact, that’s where I’m writing this blog post, right now!

Chair for the second desk in my son’s room. My grandmother’s old folding chair with a comfy padded seat that was in the basement. Easy and cost-free!

Whew! Reading through this narrative really brings home how much unplanned work went into this now (thankfully) finished endeavor.

But that’s how work and life often are during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. So we adapt to those changes, with sometimes unexpected and amazing results!

An Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary 7-14-20: Website Images … Bike Riding … Adapting

Everything moves forward with time. Adapts to new and changing circumstances.

We adjust as well – right now to the realities of work and life during the evolving coronavirus pandemic.

New Jersey began reopening in a limited way throughout June and July. As a result my routine has shifted … somewhat. Such as getting takeout favorite restaurants once or twice a week. And bike riding at trails within the tristate area (more on that later). When in public it’s all masks, all the time. But mostly my family and I are still sheltering in place for a good part of the work day. And the work does indeed continue, including on this website.

Ongoing Website Overhaul: Supplemental Pictures

The latest updates here on involve a couple of small but important housecleaning tasks: replacing the images that do not incorporate photos of myself. These contain include words, messages, and objects that enhance my brand and professional focus (i.e. editing, proofreading, short-form writing).

As with profile pics, you should refresh the other website images periodically. Finding suitable candidates need not be as costly or time-intensive as having a professional business photoshoot. Still, give some serious thought about what you want to convey with regard to your business, messaging, branding, etc.

For example, don’t choose just for the sake of beauty; instead, first consider:

  1. How does the image truly relate to your product or service?
  2. Can website visitors “get” the underlying meaning right away?
  3. Will the picture serve as an effective CTA (call-to-action) for existing / potential clients?

Once you answer questions like these, the search can begin!

I considered stock images on several fee-based websites including Shutterstock and iStock, as well as free sites such as Pixabay. (Bonny Clayton / Your Web Chick provides an excellent rundown of Pixabay and other no-cost options on her blog.) Eventually I purchased a package of five nifty images from Shutterstock, including the one below now appearing on my Portfolio page:


Summer Riding on the Rail Trails (and Other Bicycling Adventures)

My kid’s sleepaway camp was cancelled due to coronavirus, and one of the hodgepodge of summertime socially-distanced activities is bicycling.

Since mid-June I’ve been venturing further afield for weekly bicycling half-day trips with my son. I load our bikes onto the Kuat Sherpa 2.0 rack the night before, because we start early – by 7:00 a.m. – as the temperature soars to the 90s by late morning. We travel to local rail trails and other bicycling paths within a two-hour radius.

We opt for trails that are four-plus miles in one direction, so riding lasts anywhere from one-and-a-half to two-hours. A couple favorites so far in New Jersey and Delaware:

Going early means sparse crowds (though we always wear face masks, of course), and being outdoors somewhere other than the backyard is glorious.

Cycling on the JAM

I recommend the app / website to plan your trip. There you will find detailed descriptions of local trails, as well as detailed, interactive maps. The app is free, but a yearly subscription comes with the bonus of downloading maps for offline use.

How are you adapting to work and play this summer during COVID-19? Please share in the comments below!

An Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary 5-14-20: Website Revamp & Bulb Update

Two full months into the coronavirus stay-at-home life, I’ve finally tackled a task put off for far too long: revisions to this website.

Why did I not do this earlier? Surely there was plenty of time at home from the start. Right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. (See my first entry in this series for details.)

But, finally, my family found a fairly good rhythm – a schedule that works for us all, without driving each other batty (mostly). And so I was able to focus … in fits and starts … on making much-needed website updates.

What Every Business Website Needs Periodically: An Overview and Overhaul

Editors, writers, proofreaders – we all need to periodically reassess and update our websites, regardless of the site’s simplicity or complexity. This should happen in concert with an evaluation of business goals, at minimum once or twice a year, if not quarterly. (A good practice for all businesses, actually.)

My last website overhaul occurred in the summer of 2018. (I know, I know.) The current round of changes include:

  • New profile pics from a January business photoshoot in January. (Check out my photographer, Artistry By Danielle K – she is crazy talented!)
  • Other new complementary website images.
  • Home (“About”) and Services pages copy revisions reflecting my professional focus at this time – primarily editing, proofreading, evaluation, and – to a lesser extent – short-form writing (250 words or less) of business content.
  • Website URL / name change from to

That’s right! I am retiring “Barroway Editing.” A number of factors informed this decision (this is where reassessing business / professional trajectory and goals comes into play). Though still freelancing, I’m also looking for more permanent remote work. Since – professionally speaking – I am also my brand in either case, changing the website to “Pamela Barroway” was a natural progression.

Home Page Image wo Copy 043020.
Brand-new home page photo of yours truly.

Still working out the kinks in actually switching URLs, though. Protip: never attempt changing the site address in the WordPress Settings section if uncertain of the process. Let’s just say I deleted the website from existence for several hours. (Thanks Jess Dewell, for fixing the mess.)

More changes to the website will be forthcoming; again, business website maintenance and upkeep should be an always-evolving process. In the meantime, please take a look around and see what’s new. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Bulbs: They’re Alive! (Mostly)

Our surviving tulips are still numbering five, but a total of seven Narcissus have grown, breaking through the earth. One tulip has truly bloomed, but a few more appear to be close to showing off actual flowers!

Five tulips (and a single Narcissus) poking through the ground, and one pink bloom!

The other six Narcissus, a promising display.

Not bad for a bunch of bulbs spending the winter in the garage, in a mesh bag on top of a garbage can, and then planted very late (in early April).

I hope your stay-at-home efforts – professional and personal – are bearing fruit as well!

An Editor’s Shelter-in-Place Diary 4/28/20: First Entry and Bulbs

Like so many, I’ve been sheltering in place this spring due to coronavirus. In my case this began partially on March 16, 2020, the first day that my son’s public school became fully online.

The boom lowered fully the following Monday, March 22, when my husband brought his entire business home (after the stay-at-home order went into effect for the entire state of New Jersey).

The following week my husband took over my home office (a fair trade, since his is the full-time business). My son does his remote schoolwork in the den, and I’ve set up shop on the kitchen table … though my part-time editing, proofreading, and writing business has become part-time in the extreme. My focus is all over the place, and definitely not on my professional trade; no, it’s work of another sort that is all-consuming.

The diner is open 24/7, and I’m the head chef (with occasional significant assists from my seventh grader). Laundry, housecleaning, and grocery processing – thanks Instacart shoppers, I’m upping your tip as we speak – fill my days … as does a LOT more time spent in the afternoons with my son once his schoolwork is done.

On the Monday marking the seventh week of this COVID-19 stay-at-home saga – which I gladly do, to keep others safe – I decided to write … and edit / proofread that prose, of course … about our activities.

These blog posts will be different from my previous ones, by necessity and design. The topics will touch on both the business and the personal.

The Bulbs: Tulips and Narcissus

To that end, I will briefly share today the results of an impromptu and very, very late bulb planting effort. Background: last December I got two free bags of bulbs from the local farmers market as they were trying to clean out leftover stock before winter hiatus. I promptly put the bags in the garage and forgot about them.

Flash forward to April. During Spring Break my son had even more downtime, and like so many parents I was looking for activities (other than the Xbox) for my son. I remembered those bags, and went to inspect them. Each contained 10 bulbs: one bag of tulips and one of Narcissus. Some were already sprouting (in my garage!) and only one seemed completely dry and desiccated.

On two separate days during the week of April 6 we planted the bulbs. Because my previous attempt at bulb-planting ended up a feast for our friendly neighborhood squirrels, we planted the bulbs nine to 12 inches deep. Our plant markers consisted of colorful stirrers, plastic knives, and a red plastic spoon that was for I-can’t-remember-what.

Bulb Markers
Creative Bulb Markers (or, What was in the House)

I am happy to report that, after three weeks, five of the tulips and one of the narcissus are sprouting!

Proof of Life

I am way more excited about this than my son. (His reaction? “That’s nice.”) I’ll report back with more pictures in the coming weeks.

I’d love to hear what stay-at-home endeavors you are growing. Please share in the comments!

Achieving GoalTopia: A chat with Debra Eckerling, author of “Your Goal Guide”

One of my go-to Twitter chats is Debra Eckerling’s #GoalChat (which everyone should totally check out). When she mentioned her forthcoming work on goal setting on the chat in 2019, I immediately knew an author interview and book feature was on my blogging horizon.

I spoke with Eckerling in January, just before the publication of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals.

A writer has to be creative and entrepreneur; an entrepreneur has to be a writer and creative; and a creative needs to be a writer and entrepreneur. Which is exactly what Your Goal Guide is marketed for!  —Debra Ecklering


What prompted you to write this book?

I started leading goal-setting and productivity groups at Barnes & Noble after college, relaunched them in Los Angeles [in the early 2000s] and then over the years it become this hybrid of live group and online support. Somewhere along the line, people started asking me to coach them.

My business background is communications and project management and everything that I do [contains] one or both of those elements, so I started doing workshops and was one-on-one coaching. For example, someone who [struggled to complete] their book for several years – and working with me finished it in three months!

If you can’t figure out your goals in your head, you need to do the work to figure out what you want and then … plan how you’re going to get it.

Also, this book has been in my head for years!

You’ve written other books, correct?

Yes, all self-published. The first was Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages (2014); someone asked me to coach her daughter, who wasn’t getting enough creative inspiration in school – to do what I do for adults for her daughter. So I started a Purple Pencil Adventures blog.

I got to the point where I was coaching people on writing books, and I wanted to write a book! That’s how Purple Pencil came about. I wrote my second book, Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog (2016) because I’m a firm believer in the power of the blog. I was born to blog because I’ve always written like I talk, and I felt that would be a great way to get information out there.

I also did a survey [during the process of writing Write On Blogging] so the examples are from real bloggers, not powerful, big names. They’re examples that [readers] can relate to.

[The D*E*B Method] is for people who need to make a change by choice or circumstance. Usually that change is a career change or job change, grow or start a business or side-hustle, become a known expert, or achieve work-life balance. Those are the four paths I talk about in the book.  —Debra Ecklering

Explain the origin of “The D*E*B Method,” which forms the core of Your Goal Guide.

Almost two years ago, my primary client was outsourcing what I did to someone else. I had to make a change; [that] change was making a decision to go all-in on the goal coaching.

Around the same time, my mom – who follows #GoalChat – suggested I use “DEB Goals” … [which] totally works for what I teach because:

  • D = Determine your mission;
  • E = Explore your options;
  • B = Brainstorm your path.

I got this brilliant idea and started playing with The D*E*B Method as a brand. Another reason I [developed the concept] is because when you say Write On Online, some people say “I’m not a writer!” The D*E*B Method really takes into account all the major possibilities for a career path.

Provide readers with a brief overview of Your Goal Guide.

It’s a road trip theme. The first half of the book is setting up your road trip [by taking] the reader through The D*E*B Method. Determine where you want to go, Explore different destinations, Brainstorm your route.

The second half [contains] tips for success … a successful trip, car maintenance and troubleshooting.

My GoalTopia is helping people finding THEIR GoalTopia!  —Debra Ecklering

I love the “GoalTopia” concept. How do your readers achieve GoalTopia within the framework of The D*E*B Method?

Debra Eckerling

I made up this word for my book!

Even if you know what your goals are, you should go through the “D” to determine your mission because the first step is to visualize. When you close your eyes and think about what you want, what does that look like? What is your “GoalTopia”?

Then you need to look at your starting point: what is your current bio, what is your future bio. Because you need to take an inventory of where you went versus where you want to go, because you’ll see what tools you have versus what you’ll need.

[Next is] the mission statement. That’s why I always have missions and mottos as the first #GoalChat of the year, because you need a focal point. You need to know what you want, why you want it, and how it helps others. That’s the driving force, that’s the gas that gets your car to the destination.

Once you have your mission, you need to create a short motto, something to use as a compass in making your decision. For example, if someone asks me to speak, I weigh that. My motto is “goal-setting simplified.” Everything that I do involves goal-setting, simplifying life, and if [another action or goal] falls out of that realm it’s got to fulfill me in another way – that’s why the motto is important.

Even if you think you know your GoalTopia, going through … that first bit of introspection [in Your Goal Guide will] help everything make so much more sense because it’s your starting point. And that’s what the book is! It’s designed for introspection to help you really consider all of the options.

So once you come up with your mission, you have to think about the options and do the research to figure out what you want to do first, and then brainstorm your path. There are also different exercises to map out the different points.

From the moment I said, “OK this is my path,” everything fell into place. I mean, who gets a book published a year after their first conversation?  —Debra Ecklering

Your other books are self-published. How did you come to use a publisher for Your Goal Guide?

I love this story – [essentially] I re-met an agent!

One of the women in my live groups … [told a] book agent at a networking event about my group [and] connected us. I figured out that I met the agent before because he spoke at a workshop I attended! After discussing my two self-published books and the upcoming one, [our conversation went something like this]:

Book Agent: “What is your objective [in the new book]?”
Debra: “I believe everybody deserves to be happy in some of, if not all of, their life. What my book does is help people come up with their own plan, figure out what they want and how to get there. And even if it’s an hour a week working towards something, you’ve got that hour a week as something that you’re really excited about and that can fuel you for the rest of the time.”
Book Agent: “If that’s your plan, you shouldn’t self-publish. Let me try to sell your book. Where’s your book proposal?”
Debra: “I have an older incarnation that doesn’t have my current branding.”
Agent: “Great, do you want me to give you a deadline?”
Debra: “Sure”
Agent: “How about two weeks.”

So I rewrote the proposal, sent it to him, and two-and-a-half hours later he called and said, “When do you want to meet?”

After one minor revision, he sent the book proposal out in two batches; after the second batch my publisher, Mango, expressed interested. It’s very exciting to me because Mango is a wonderful, up-and-coming publisher that focuses on innovative ideas and fresh voices. It’s even listed on Publishers Weekly’s 2019 list of “Fast-Growing Independent Publishers.”

Would you like to share other details about Your Goal Guide, or anything else percolating?

Right now my primary focus is getting this book in as many hands as possible, because I know it can help a lot of people. The book is needed – everybody has something going on in their life that is not quite right. At least one, right? Do you know anyone whose life is perfect?

There’s always something you can do to bring more happiness, fulfillment [into your life]. Or, maybe your life is a mess because of some external or internal force; you can use the book to say: “I may be having all these problems, but what is the one thing, the one personal goal I can put in my life to bring at least a little joy into it.”

And this is another thing! You and I met through Twitter. How cool is that? And here you are interviewing me. That’s the power of the age in which we live. We can basically do anything we want because the resources are out there. It’s just … figuring out what that is, and putting in the time and energy to make it happen. Maybe it’ll take a little bit of time, maybe it’ll take a long time – but if you’re working toward something, [anything is] possible.

Your Goal Guide Links
Mango Publishing’s Debra Eckerling page:

Debra Eckerling Websites
The D*E*B Method:
Write On Online:

Debra Eckerling on Social Media
Twitter, including #GoalChat: @GoalChat, @TheDEBMethod, @WriteOnOnline

You may need a current resume next month. Next week. Tomorrow. Today!

When my child began full-day kindergarten in 2012, I contemplated whether to go back into work full time, or explore robust work-at-home options. Either choice required a current resume, and at the time I hadn’t updated mine in nearly five years. I’d had a digital version handy since the late 1990s, which was the same one posted on my early 2000s-era LinkedIn profile – so I opened up the Word file to revise.

The first thing I noticed was how old the resume looked, in format and style. The font was Times New Roman, which I still prefer when writing on the computer over a sans serif font. But for the resume? Seriously dated. When was the last time I gave the whole thing an overhaul?

I dug up some old paper files. To my surprise and horror, the structure and typeface of the most recent resume was identical to the version put together when I graduated college.

Yikes. I needed a consult … with a resume doctor.

A friend put me in touch with just such an individual, a writer and public relations professional who helped revamp resumes as a side gig. Best money I ever spent. The resulting copy was far easier to read – less cluttered, with more actionable descriptions (i.e. showing instead of telling), set in a modern sans serif type. The document format and text were also more flexible, and I made further revisions in the years since without needing a resume specialist.

In the waning months of 2019 resumes are once again top-of-mind, as I apply to permanent part-time and full-time positions for the first time in a long while. With just a few tweaks, my resume was ready to go for my current job search.

My point: the time to update your resume is now. There are individual contractors and resume writing services who can help with the task for a fee. If cost is an issue, check out one of the online, interactive resume building sites. Your local library will also have free resources, including books and workshops. To get started, check out these two articles that list a number of online options (as with any online service, do your due diligence before contracting with any person or service):

Circumstances can and do change suddenly, whether you are working as a freelancer or small business owner … in a large company or a small nonprofit … or even if you are in a position you love. Layoffs might occur. That dream job may unexpectedly present itself! An updated, ready-to-use resume is necessary for any of these eventualities.

The day you need a resume may be today. Is yours ready to rock and roll?

Is spellcheck enough? Nope! Have an eyeball or two review that writing project.

When people discover I’m a freelance editor at networking events or through casual conversation, they occasionally ask this question: “Why does anyone need an editor when they can just use spellcheck?”

The first few times, this query seriously pissed me off. I mean, really? You think you can do a better job editing than an actual editor? Yeesh.

But eventually I came to see to see the question as a teachable moment, both for the questioner and, as it turns out, myself. Why? Because many organizations and small businesses are unable to afford the cost of – or do not see the value in – hiring a dedicated editor to check over written work. Often proofreading is up to the individual putting out that report, email, or post.

Listening provided perspective. Now when asked, I offer this overview of self-editing whys and hows:

  • Written content, regardless of type, requires review. Writing fast and sending (posting, tweeting, emailing, mailing) courts disaster in the form of mistakes. Some are amusing typos, others are get-you-fired typos.
  • Make time to put aside the copy for at least 15 to 30 minutes … yes, even that 280-character tweet!
  • Reviewing should start with your own eyeballs. Read the text slowly to yourself. Then read it out loud! (A wonderfully effective technique.)
  • Get a coworker or friend to check the copy – someone who has not previously proofread your work.
  • Now run it through the spellchecker installed with your computer’s word processing software (like Microsoft Word), or Google Docs or similar online freeware. Other sites offer the option of plugging in a paragraph or uploading a file for free spelling and grammar review.

Following this straightforward routine will help weed out most grammar, spelling, and style gaffes in your written work.

Other projects may require the services professional editor. Looking for one? Let’s talk!

#EditorsFiguringOut … An Action Plan after a Laptop Drop

Over time, computers – desktops, notebooks, tablets, smartphones – outlive their usefulness. Some become slow with accumulated software updates/upgrades. Others become glitchy. Or the battery life wanes. Or the computer simply stops working entirely. Though my 2015 laptop was a lovely combination of slow and glitchy with low battery life, its writing and editing software worked well … so I ignored the annoyances (and programmed Microsoft Word to autosave and create file backup copies). Until one day when I couldn’t.

That day I was fighting a wicked head cold and decided to sit in the den on the comfy sofa with a hot mug of steaming tea instead of working at my desk. With everything set up, the last item to bring down was the laptop. On the bottom step of the stairs separating the kitchen and the den, I sneezed and lost my balance. The laptop slid out of my grip, flipped over and made a distinctive CRUNCH as it hit the hard parquet floor. Regaining my footing, I stared for a full minute before gingerly righting the laptop and lifting the top.

To my shock, not only was the screen not busted into a million pieces, the project I’d been working on was still visible on the screen. The computer gods were in a giving mood, and decided this device was not ready for the trash heap just yet. Relieved, I settled in and resumed working.

My relief lasted until 7 p.m. I put aside work at 3 p.m. because my head was pounding and my son was home from school. While helping him with homework, doing a load of laundry, somehow making dinner … the laptop went into sleep mode. And there it stayed when I tried to resume work.

Great. Just great. Time for an action plan.


The Action Plan, Step 1: Getting the Files Off of the Laptop

Yes, I know, I know … don’t I back up the files? The answer is yes, locally – on a portable hard drive. But I’d been lax on that task in the weeks leading up to the mishap.

Before calling the Geek Squad, I physically took out and then put back in the lithium-ion battery, and turned on the computer. And it did start up … but at a glacial pace. The laptop was clearly on its way out, so I downloaded all the files as fast as possible – which is to say, it took forever. But five nail-biting hours later, my information was safely ensconced on the portable hard drive and several flash drives.

The Action Plan, Step 2: Wiping the Computer

Wiping a computer – i.e. erasing all the data – when retiring a device is non-negotiable in 2019 in order to protect personal information. Luckily my now super-slow damaged laptop cooperated (though this action literally took overnight). On a Windows 10 device this means doing a hard “reset” to “remove everything.” This February article, “How to Reset Your Windows 10 PC,” offers step-by-step instructions complete with screenshots and an instructional video. Similar directions exist to wipe Apple products, including iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and Mac computers.

The Action Plan, Step 2: Shredding the Hard Drive

Recovering data erased as described above is difficult, but not impossible. So go one step further and ensure your device’s hard drive is completely destroyed: shred it. According to an article on, “A hard drive shredder is a mechanical device that physically destroys old hard drives in such a way that the data they contain cannot be recovered.”1

Some companies like PROSHRED Security and Shred-It offer these services for a fee, and will provide a certificate of destruction (seriously) for your records. I take my devices to a local South Jersey outfit called The Tab Group, Inc. Seeing the hard drives being demolished offers peace of mind; the experience is enjoyable cathartic, too – who on occasion hasn’t wanted to throw their computer out a window, like the old Second City Television (SCTV)  intro?

If cost is an obstacle, sign up for event notifications on your township or county website. Municipalities often have free e-waste recycling at least once a year, and occasionally will feature a company that shreds hard drives for free.

The Action Plan, Step 3: Purchasing a New Computer

You’re frantic. Project deadlines loom. I totally get it. Even so … do not run out and purchase the first computer you see. I did my homework – an hour of miserably achy, stuffy-nose research (on my son’s notebook) to compare features, user and professional reviews, and pricing of both computers and associated word processing / office software. Two good sites for reviews are PC Magazine and TechRadar.

(An aside: word processing / office freeware is available, of course. Options include Office Online or Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. My preference is the one-time purchase of Microsoft Office for a single computer – which I will use for several years – as opposed to an ongoing Office 365 subscription. Every editor and writer should make this determination based on their individual needs.)

After finishing the legwork, I went to a store to look over two particular laptops … and to type. Editors and copywriters do a LOT of typing, and testing out a new keyboard is vital. In this instance, one keyboard was significantly smaller, making for an awkward, hand-cramping typing experience – despite the fact that the devices were the same size. My choice was made!

Due diligence saves time, and, potentially, money. For example, when looking into accessories a few days later I discovered my laptop had just gone on sale; I went back and received a $200 refund.

The Action Plan, Step 4: Setting Up the New Laptop

1. Turn on the computer and follow the on-screen setup instructions.

Windows 10 gathers a lot of your information for Microsoft. If you’re concerned about online privacy and security issues like I am, there are a number of quick actions to take at setup – especially using a local account to sign in instead of a Microsoft account. This article, How to protect your privacy in Windows 10, gives a good instructional overview.

2. Install essential software, including but not limited to:

  • Antivirus / anti-malware programs.
  • Word processing and other office-related software.
  • PDF editing software like Adobe Acrobat Pro.
  • Other grammar / usage software for editing / writing.
  • Design software; I use Xara Designer Pro for image manipulation for my website, blog, and social media marketing.
  • Printer drivers / software.
  • Browsers; I actually use three – Firefox, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge.

3. Transfer any essential files back to your computer from the portable hard and flash drives.

The Action Plan, Step 5: New, Improved File Backup Strategy

My fresh approach? Keep the external hard drive plugged into the laptop to act as a mirror drive. I prefer keeping all files local – but cloud storage can certainly achieve the same goal. There is no wrong answer, only what works well for you!

What’s Your Plan?

This action plan is comprehensive, but not exhaustive. “What works well for you” also applies to the form and order of the steps, should your own computer unexpectedly go kaput … whether quietly or via a literal laptop drop.

Since it’s time to get back to work editing and copywriting on my shiny, new (and fast!) laptop, I will end with this question: What is YOUR plan? Please share in the comments below!

[box]#EditorsFiguringOut is a new periodic blogging effort at focusing on topics important to freelance editors and copywriters.[/box]


Editing, Copywriting, Exercising

Writing at mid-morning, I am focused. The only sound is the computer keys as I type, and my awareness of even that noise fades as words appear on the screen. Sitting up straight – not hunched – helps to maintain concentration while fingers fly over the keys (thanks to eleventh grade typing back in the 1980s). Otherwise, I am still, save for flexing my mind. But one can only be stationary for so long before concentration and creative productivity wanes; the body requires periodic flexing too!

It is possible to sit at the computer for hours if you are really in an editing or copywriting groove (or for any computer work-related reason). But again, those diminishing returns. Better to get up every half hour or so and … do what? Stand up for a few minutes while you get a fresh cup of coffee or tea, then sit right back work?

No! It is better to move around – and you absolutely can fit exercise into your work routine. Literally! As in, beyond scheduling a half hour or so for power walking, running, cycling or whatever is your preferred mode of working out.


Back now! Allow me to explain: I did go make a cup of hot tea. And while the water was boiling, the tea steeping and then cooling down, I power walked down the stairs to and around the basement (and then back up again) for about ten minutes. Not the fastest power walk, but one that provided an attention jump-start to the engine of my mind, allowing work with renewed productive gusto on the editing and/or copywriting project at hand (like this article).

My on-the-spot exercise plan may not be your solution. Everyone’s answer is different, and there’s no “right” way! The point is, figuring out a drill that fits well within your particular job surroundings will help make a habit of the practice … and enhance your effectiveness throughout the workday!

For additional context, I recommend listening to the inspiration for this article, a recent WHYY Radio Times broadcast entitled “The science of fitness and how to make it a habit.”