Despite Word popping green and red squiggly lines all over my copy and despite my best efforts to go back and correct them, mistakes get through. It’s not Words fault that they get through, it’s mine.
I just keep putting in commas where they shouldn’t be, or leaving them out. Sentences have words tumbling over themselves and odd words fail to show up altogether. Other sentences grow long and cumbersome, whilst others have an end where the beginning should be.
You would think with major flaws like this I would spot them as I read through the copy. Yet somehow when I read it there seems to be a part of my brain that runs ahead and corrects these blunders, smoothes out the wrinkles and concentrates on the story or character, rather than the detail of the words. I have before now read something twice and been stunned to find a glaring mistake on the third read, one that had been there right from the start.
To combat this annoying tendency, I read the copy aloud to myself, a task which is best done in the early or late hours when the rest of the house is asleep, since it has to be ‘read aloud’. Mumbling quietly in a corner simply does not have the same effect. Yet even with this extreme filter the fast forwarding part of my brain smoothes over flaws. The mental process involved in reading dominates my thinking and the ability to listen to detail diminishes.
What to do?
I have two solutions for this, one far better than the other. The better solution is my wife, who without prior knowledge of the copy, reads the words as they are presented to her and points out where they grate on her in their delivery. The other solution is text-to-speech software. It is not as informative as my wife but when I am duly equipped with a pair of headphones, it is instantly available and never complains if I revise the same paragraph twenty times.
I am currently using TextAloud with a natural voice from RealSpeak. Why this one? No reason, it was available to me at the time and I managed to set it up to suit how I wanted to use it. With this all I have to do is launch the software and then any text I copy to the clipboard is automatically converted to speech and read back to me. A natural voice plug-in is a necessity since the built-in Windows’ one is truly awful.
This software works for me in that I can shut my eyes and just listen to the delivery. By turning off the part of my brain that is involved with reading, it allows me to truly listen to the words on the page.
The delivery is not human, words do get mispronounced and there is a robotic element to the intonations. Even the better ‘Natural’ voices that you can buy as an additional plug-in, still sound artificial and all of them will misread some words. After a while you acknowledge that “read”, “minute”, “lead” etc have more than one pronunciation and allow for it when it happens.
But I personally find it useful and mostly so in spotting where simple punctuation is misplaced and where a sentence has unintended words or omissions. The ability to halt the narration then go back, edit and reread, I find really useful. Hopefully you will too.
I know some writers have difficulty with these programs, intensely disliking the limitations of the voice. I would suggest to anyone interested in trying it out, that they first download the free versions and a trial natural pattern voice. Paste in some copy and find out for yourself if it is going to be useful to you.
Below I have listed some links to the websites of text-to-speech software providers. They are in no particular order and I have no affiliate arrangement with any of them. So try them out and see if any suit you. With the natural voices, if a sample is downloaded to a Windows PC it then becomes available to all the readers installed on that machine.
Finally, if you are a blogger and would like to have your posts read to your readers, then check out Odiogo’s site.
Photo LOUD speaker, cc Woodleywonderworks