Read it back to me, please

ReadItToMePleaseI am perpetually in editor-mode. This is one of my flaws; one that holds me back considerably when I am writing. And the reason is that I spend far more time re-reading what I have written rather than just blurting all my thoughts down on paper (screen?) as they come to me. All the experts say just dump it all out at once; you can always go back and re-read it again later on. That’s all well and good, but when you are like me, you’re constantly re-reading your last sentence back to yourself. What that means is that the rest of the piece never gets written because I am so focused on what went before.

I sometimes wish I could just write without watching what I’m writing. And sometimes I type as I gaze out the window in front of me. I practice to just get it out at once and tell myself to go back later and “fix” it when I am done. It’s a good idea; except that … well, have you ever written or typed without looking at the screen? Sometimes what comes out is so illegible that it’s difficult for even me to interpret what I initially intended to say in the first place.

Joking aside, no matter how you do it, at some point, you end up with a finished product that absolutely needs to be proofread. There is no compromise here. Proofreading is a must-do. Too many times I have gone over my writing and found double-words, incomplete sentences, convoluted sentences, or sentences that just make no sense at all. But re-reading is tedious; especially when you get to the third or fourth reading. So what I tend to do when I have a long missive to proofread, is set my computer to read it all back to me.

This is, I suspect, one of the many reasons that many writers (among other creative types) tend to prefer an Apple machine to a Windows machine – OS X (which is the operating system that comes with most Apple computers) has a text-to-speech capability built in. No special tweaking is necessary (although I much prefer to hear a male voice speaking than a woman’s voice for some things) and it’s ready to go right out of the box. The best part of text-to-speech is that it uses the punctuation you add to your work. So, if there are too many commas (or not enough), you can immediately hear it.

But that doesn’t mean that Windows users are left out in the cold. My husband is doing an online course at home. He learns better when he hears the words rather than when he reads. The course, unfortunately, can only be run in Internet Explorer. So we needed to find him a way to have that course material read to him on Windows. We found a free software application for him to use, and although somewhat rough in its construction, it did the job well. This leads me to believe, then, that there is absolutely no excuse for turning out work that contains several grammatical or spelling errors. The tools are there; you only need to look for them.

Too often, I see books submitted with grammatical and spelling errors that are obvious. As writers, we cannot expect to be taken seriously if even we cannot stand to re-read our own work. I appeal to you as writer to writer – if you can’t find someone to proofread your work for you, find a text-to-speech tool to do it for you. It’s not the ideal solution, and it won’t yield perfect results, but it is a step in the right direction.

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  • What a great idea! You are absolutely right. I don’t mind hearing it, I’m just tired of re-reading it. Thank you!

  • Sounds excellent, but how do I do it? I’ve a Mac OSX 10.6.8. but I I can’t find the command.

  • Apologies… I’ve discovered the trick. Brilliant, Thanks for telling us about this.

  • It’s a great idea and it really works if you prefer listening to re-reading. The spelling is another matter … are you using US English or UK English and if you write in UK English, why does it have to be ‘translated’?!

  • nice

  • I’m an accredited proofreader and feel I do quite well proofreading/editing my own work. But this is a great idea as an option, especially with poetry, where the punctuation is important if someone else is to read it.

  • I guess I may not understand the problem. I write using Microsoft Word and it catches 98% of the “double-words, incomplete sentences,
    convoluted sentences, or sentences that just make no sense at all.” . After I have made the suggested corrections (sometimes I ignore the suggestions made by Word), my DW proofs and marks it up for me. As an Assistant Vice-President for a large corporation, she is constantly sending letters, articles and even manuals back to her ‘idiots who took no classes in writing, punctuation, run-on or incomprehensible sentences in college and who have no concept of what a paragraph is used for! (I know that looks like a run-on, but that is exactly how she says it). Being an ‘old-school’ reader, I get highly frustrated when reading a book with errors in spelling, conjugation and facts. A prime example was a book by a well known author who had his character “overlooking the Mississippi River” from the Capitol Building in Jefferson City, MO. The character must have been a true freak of nature because the Mississippi is approximately 250 miles from the state capitol. What was more likely was that the character was “overlooking” the Missouri River, which can be seen from the cupola of the Capitol Building. The Missouri is the longer of the two from its start in Montana to when it empties into the Gulf of Mexico as a partner with the Mississippi.

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