8 Ways to Keep Your Vision Safe While You Write

Frustrated woman holds her hands to her head as she stares ahead at a laptop screen.
Is your computer monitor far enough away from you? (Photo: Wavebreak Media Ltd)

“Eye-gonomics.”

It’s one of those portmanteaus that make you cringe. Yet, as wonky as the word sounds, it’s wise to pay heed. According to the Vision Council, digital eyestrain is today’s most common computer-related repetitive strain injury, surpassing carpal tunnel and tendonitis.

There’s no way around it: Writers sit in front of computer screens for long periods of time. If they’re not careful, they will cause harm to their eyes.

How can writers reduce that potential harm? Here are a few easy tips:

1. Observe the 20-20-20 Rule

Looking into the distance to let your eyes relax is called the 20-20-20 Rule, and it’s an easy exercise to help reduce eyestrain. It’s also a wise exercise to turn into a habit if you spend more than a couple of hours in front of a computer monitor.

For every 20 minutes of monitor time writing, you should spend 20 seconds looking at objects 20 feet away—or at least far enough away that your eyes aren’t working to focus.

2. Location, Location, Location

While most monitors aren’t easily adjustable on their own, there are plenty of do-it-yourself ways to make one optimal for viewing.

Your objective is to get the area about 2–3 inches down from the top of the monitor casing to be at eye level.

3. High Five

Is your computer monitor far enough away from you? Your palm should be able to rest comfortably on the monitor (as if you’re high-fiving the screen).

The more elusive part of the location equation is finding ways to eliminate glare on your monitor. My iMac is the worst when it comes to glare!

While some monitors (like mine) can tilt, many can’t. A more likely solution is going to involve placement of lighting in your writing area. Lighting is crucial: Your monitor should be the brightest light in the room. Lessen the amount of overhead and surrounding light that is competing with your screen. Dim inside lights and try to avoid outside areas of intense brightness. This will go a long way toward helping to reduce glare and strain.

4. Take Frequent Breaks

Refer to the 20-20-20 Rule above, which you can combine with an actual timeout where you get up and walk away from your writing on a regular 30-minute schedule. It doesn’t matter what you do on your breaks—as long as it’s not sitting in front of your computer monitor.

5. You Are What You Eat

You’re eating the right foods to maintain your eyesight, right?

6. There’s an App for That

Apps are growing in number daily, and the best way to find one that will work for you is to simply try some out. Start with these:

7. Do This Before You Write

  • Clean your screen. Frequently dust and wipe screens to help with glare reduction.

8. Do This While You Write

  • Consider giving your eyes a break by increasing the text size of your document. I’m almost always at 170 percent zoom in Microsoft Word, for example. You can always change it back before you send it or print it.
  • Remember to blink. It’s not an urban myth: Looking at a digital screen does affect the amount of times you blink—usually detrimentally—causing your eyes to dry. An additional benefit of setting up blink reminders is that it will keep you aware of the need to refocus your eyes.
  • Get glasses! If you need prescription eyewear, get glasses that are specifically for writing. Tell your eyewear professional that they are going to be used for that purpose, as there are many options for coatings that can lessen glare and increase contrast. Dispense with the vanity and make sure that the “nice” part about your glasses applies to how comfortable they are during wear.

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I'm Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than two decades of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes after Hurricane Katrina. Today, I have put together a hand-picked team of copy editors, and we especially love working with ad agencies, marketing departments, and education companies to make their text as polished as possible. Learn more here.

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