Reading Aloud: My Tip of the Week

As some of you will know, I’m about to publish my first novel. I’m deep in the process of proof-reading and cover design at present. Hopefully the whole thing will come together early next month. But this isn’t a marketing piece (that will come later!). Today I want to share a tip that has been invaluable to me in the past couple of weeks.

Read your work out loud! OK, it’s something most writers have been told and many of us do. Nothing new there, I hear you say. It’s a good way of picking up awkward phrases; if you trip over them when reading, there’s a fair chance the the reader will too.

But it’s not infallible; knowing the piece well, we often read what we think is there, rather than what is actually written.

Get someone else to read it to you! That’s a better way, since they only read what they see. But how many of us have a reading buddy or partner with the time or inclination to read a whole novel to us?

Get a machine to read it to you! Now that really does work, or at least it did for me. A mechanical voice has no inflection and no emotion. So all it delivers is the words. And boy, does it deliver! I took a manuscript I thought I’d polished to within an inch of its life, gave it to my computer to read – and found a whole new level of editing that needed to be done.

I’m not claiming full credit for this tip by the way. It was one of the suggestions in the comments on Molly Greene’s excellent article on proofing a manuscript. And it was my husband who pointed out that pdf files have the option to read out loud. I used a print copy and coloured stickers to record everything as I went along, but you can also use the ‘higlighter’ and ‘sticky notes’ functions within the pdf itself if you prefer to keep it all on screen.

It’s a simple, three-step process:

  1. Convert the text file to pdf
  2. Activate the reading option (View/Read Out Loud/Activate Read Out Loud)
  3. Click on the text, one paragraph at a time. The reading is quite fast, so it’s better to keep to manageable chunks.
Has anyone else found this a useful process? What other ways do you use to proof your manuscript?

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By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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