Read-aloud Editing

As anyone who’s been reading my site for a while has probably noticed, I’m a terrible copyeditor.  My posts are filled with typos, missing words, and all sorts of other errors.  I know I’m a poor copyeditor, and knowing this, I try very hard to catch my errors, but I simply can’t.  I’ve tried a lot of the tricks: reading sentence-by-sentence backwards, reading aloud, setting the piece aside for a day or two before going back to it.  None of them seem to work for me, and it’s not because I don’t care or don’t try.  I’m just crappy at it.  The only thing I’ve found that consistently works for me, is getting someone better at it to do it for me, but that’s often inconvenient, and I feel it imposes unduly on my writing colleagues.

For the last week or so, I’ve been trying something new.  Fellow author Ian Creasey (we’re both members of Codex) suggested using text-to-speech software and having my work read back to me.  I decided to give a few of the free/demo text-to-speech programs a try to see if this would work for me.

I’ve tried the software with the past few posts here, and with a couple of stories I’ve recently finished.  The results aren’t perfect, but I think there’s been a definite decrease in the number of copyediting errors.  It’s still not as clean as I would like, but part of that, I’m sure, is the quality of the speech software I’m using.  Free/demo software don’t have the best quality reading voices—the programs for sale have more and better voices available—so it’s not always easy to catch the errors.  But I did manage to catch a lot of additional errors that I had missed after proofreading.  This might not be the perfect panacea, but I think it might be worth the investment in better software.  Cutting my errors in half (or more) would be a huge step forward, and would make me less self-conscious about sending stories out that haven’t been edited by someone else.

For the record, I ran this post through the free version of Natural Reader, and caught six additional copyediting errors.  That’s six fewer mistakes for the world to see.

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About D. Thomas Minton

Writer of speculative fiction
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4 Responses to Read-aloud Editing

  1. Reading aloud is another way to see the manuscript, just as single space, double space versions are. Knowing and having someone who can see a misspelling at 500 yards also invaluable.

    • I’ve tried both of those, too. I still read everything aloud to hear the rhythm of the sentences and to pick out the clunky writing, but more often than not, my brain inserts the missing words because it knows they’re supposed to be there. Dang brain 🙂

  2. ericjbaker says:

    I do not find your blog notable for typos, and I do a fair amount of editing at work, so I’m used to looking for errors. Your posts are probably cleaner than mine.

    • Thanks, you are too kind. But I’m amazed how I still find typos whenever I go back and look at an old post. I’m OCD enough that need to fix them, even if the post is years-old and probably will never be read by another soul.

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