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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Nifty Proofreading Tip

   
Author Topic: Nifty Proofreading Tip
MattLeo
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How many times have you sent off a manuscript with unintelligible sentences or repeated words, despite having attempted to proofread it several times? The problem is that when you read you see what you expect to be on the page, not what actually is there.

One trick I've found useful is to run the book through a text-to-speech engine and listen to it. Those errors your eyes skip over become obvious, and you can proofread while you're doing other things.

MacOS has text to speech built-in. So does Windows, although I'm less familiar with that. I'm a Linux user, and the TTS engines for Linux while effective are unpleasant and grating. So what I do is convert my word processing documents to the EPub format, then use the ebook reader on my smartphone to read them aloud. The reader I use for EPubs on my Android phone is Moon Plus Reader. The only drawback is that Moon Plus doesn't read MS Word files directly. When I have to do that I use a product called "Cool Reader" that has a read aloud function and can handle Word files. I prefer Moon Plus because Cool Reader sometimes skips words and has no table of contents function.

Basic text to speech engines are very robotic sounding. There are now more advanced engines that are much less artificial sounding. The best by far I've found is NeoSpeech, which is available online but is very expensive (50 word demo here:https://ondemand.neospeech.com/editor/). I use the Ivona TTS engine, which is also quite good and reasonably expressive sounding. You can listen to a 3 minute except from my WIP here:https://docs.google.com/open?id=0By5ezGPdWIP_UFVrZWxRZ0dfRlE.

Typically you have a choice of voices, each with their peculiar pronunciation quirks, beyond things like pitch, dynamics, and dialect. For example the voice I used in the sample above does not pronounce "eyeing" correctly (it says "eee-ying" instead of "aye-ying"). It also pronounces "STOP IT" as "stop eye-tee."

In case anyone is wondering, I have no copyright concerns about sharing this on Google Drive because it's only a brief excerpt. This does bring up an interesting point. Some text to speech engines have different levels of license; the less expensive licenses don't include the right to distribute the audio output. This won't affect your proof reading, but don't try to publish an audio book using their software.

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extrinsic
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My proofreading practice, technologically speaking, derived from reading aloud into a recorder and playing back while reading along.

I've now got some heavy-hitting software and hardware for doing that: Dragon Speaking and a portable digital recorder-player.

Watching others read or write and then reading what they write, I've noticed the stronger writers' lips move, touching, tasting, feeling the words as they read. Mine move when I proofread, I've been told.

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MattLeo
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quote:
I've noticed the stronger writers' lips move, touching, tasting, feeling the words as they read. Mine move when I proofread, I've been told.
Pfft. That's nothing. Whenever I fix a faulty phrase, an angel gets a golden harpstring. [Wink]

Feel free to top that.

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extrinsic
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I don't know which I find more satisfying, finding a faux pas in my writing or someone else's, pouncing like a predator on prey. I recently came across one that was hilarious for the context.

"I already know the whole story. Lying to me is feudal."

Not mine.

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hoptoad
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I fail to see how a golden harpstring could 'twang' at all. Wouldn't it just bend?

Unless of course it only has the "appearance" of pure gold which might be a perfect metaphor for your proofreading skills/tips -- how would I know? [Wink]

[ June 24, 2012, 09:16 PM: Message edited by: hoptoad ]

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wise
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
"I already know the whole story. Lying to me is feudal."

Spoken by a night to a pheasant in the muddle ages.

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by wise:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
"I already know the whole story. Lying to me is feudal."

Spoken by a night to a pheasant in the muddle ages.

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Me neither. Spoking buy am night too am pheasant inn them muddle aegis.
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wise
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Extrinsic, you obviously put a lot more thought into yours! Good job!

My grandfather used to call a culdesac a "cuddlysack". And he wasn't trying to say a malapropism, he just naturally came out with them from time to time. Wish I remembered more of them.

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extrinsic
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wise, I couldn't have done mine without your artful one to riff off. Mine was as much to play as to show that a wordprocessor spell checker client wouldn't touch one word. Proofreading is essential. Anyway, practice makes proficient.
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wise
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Practice makes prefect. But only in ancient Rome.
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hoptoad
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enough of all this, I'm going serfing
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Robert Nowall
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At work, the supervisors once in a while put up these self-written notes to us peons...which one of the peons (not me) will write some corrections on. A couple of months ago, one single paragraph notice had errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
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MattLeo
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quote:
PS: On the text to speech point, doesn't the mechanical pace of the reader frustrate you, or does it help?
The very best TTS engines are amazing -- they don't sound mechanical at all, just a little weird because they don't understand what is being read and sometimes read it with the wrong intonation or pronunciation. For example Ivona pronounced "IT" as "eye tee" -- an acronym for Information Technology -- were a human would say "it". On the other hand, it doesn't recognize the acronym "OIC" (Officer in Charge) and so pronounces it "oyk".

There are three things that determine how listenable a TTS engine is. (1) pronunciation, (2) intonation, and (3) sonic quality.

Take the voices of the Dalek's in Dr. Who; an actor speaking in absolutely perfect BBC English pronunciation speaks with a monotonously strained intonation. Then this is filtered electronically to sound harsh. They are perfectly clear and understandable, but you wouldn't want to listen to a novel read by a Dalek.

The reason I don't use TTS on Linux is that the voices supplied sound like an American Dalek being run through a cheese grater.

The better TTS engines take punctuation marks (?,!,...) into account and some have quite a bag of tricks when it comes to guessing how a phrase should be pronounced, taking cues from stock phrases or words. There's one female voice offered by a vendor which does this so aggressively, it sounds like a hooker high on laughing gas. It even giggles when it runs into an emoticon.

The problem is that when a TTS voice goes overboard like that it ends up in the uncanny valley, sounding creepy rather than natural. The best voices use enough tricks to sound a little better than robotic, but not so many they sound like a deranged person. Examples are linked to above.

Speaking of proofreading errors, I always feel a thrill of foreboding when I use the verb "to prostrate".

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hoptoad
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yes, to 'prostrate oneself' is a very different experience if you leave out an 'r'.
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MattLeo
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Speaking of "prefect" and "serfing", the text-to-speech trick is great for hard-to-spot transpositions like "prefect" for "perfect", but homophones ("serf"/"surf") can only be caught by careful reading with a fresh eye. Sometimes a word that is a homophone in one dialect may not be in another:

"I struggled to reach the bank, but the strong currant carried me away."

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shimiqua
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Raisins will do that.... it's the fiber content.
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wise
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I think it robbed the bank during a sudden downpour, which created a flash flood, so that when I arrived at the bank I got caught by the fleeing currant and we both serfed down the street. Some poor lice chased us, so the currant dropped it's bog of cache. I picked it up and at the next branch I made a deposit. The teller was raisin Cain when she discovered the stolen money. Now I'm giving my deposition at the poor lice station. I hope to wash my hair of the whole situation, but don't think I'll get away that easily.
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rcmann
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I always loved the way 'wear' means to put on and also means to abrade off. And it's spelled the same either way.
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hoptoad
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like wear wolves
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rcmann
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The weir wolves wear weir going where woolly under where.
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