Thursday, February 15, 2007

Proofreading with Text To Speech

One great use for Text To Speech is for proofreading. We have a ton of writers, ranging from professional writers to those just wanting to make sure their emails make sense who use TextAloud's Proofreading features. Editors like Word, Word Perfect and others all have built in spell check, which is great. Some also have grammar check, which can at times be helpful, but at other times just gets in the way. But how many times have you written a document that passes spell check no problem only to find that you either put the wrong word in, or left a word out and now a sentence doesn't make any sense. These types of mistakes can reflect badly on you. And, proofreading by simply reading over your text sometimes catches errors, but our brains are so good at reading, that it will often fill in or correct the mistake internally and you never really see the problem.

Text To Speech to the rescue. Below are some quotes from writer's who use it

Praise from Writers who use TextAloud:

Tom Hannon
"Everything I write gets the run-through with TextAloud now," comments fiction writer Tom Hannon. "It is as important as running a spell-check." It's not uncommon, when proofreading from a screen or printed page, to miss sentence fragments or improper word choices. However, "with TextAloud, you can hear when something doesn't sound right," he adds. "It's so easy to use. It is the greatest writing tool since the word processor."

Kathryn Caskie
"I use TextAloud every day when I am writing," comments multi-published fiction author Kathryn Caskie, whose latest book, A Lady's Guide to Rakes, was released on September 1, 2005 for Warner Books. "In fact, when I was recently out of town and didn't have access to my favorite voice 'Audrey,' I wasn't nearly as productive."

Caskie finds the program valuable not only for its ambiance (listening to British-accented voice 'Audrey' helps her to get into the feel of the English characters in her historical romance in progress), but also for its value as a proofreading tool. "Most writers read their work aloud to themselves in order to make sure the dialogue sounds natural, as well as to catch typos and to ensure that their prose flows. However, by time many authors get to this point, they've likely read any given passage several times. So, too often, we read what 'should' be on that page, not necessarily what actually appears. With TextAloud, I can just sit back with a cup of coffee and listen to my book read back to me. I follow along on the computer screen and correct any typos, and will also pause instantly if a particular line of dialogue doesn't sing."

She even uses TextAloud to save her chapters in MP3 format, loading them onto her iPod for later listening at her convenience, whether in the car or at a child's soccer game. "I've used TextAloud for two published books so far," she comments. "I love the program, and rave about it to all of my author friends."

Sherryl King-Wilds
Book Reviewer and fantasy novelist Sherryl King-Wilds values TextAloud's usefulness when editing her novels, as well as in writing her book reviews, and has high praise for the program's edit function in particular. "The ability to highlight a certain section of text and hear it without having to listen to endless blocks of 'wordage' gives me flexibility and saves me much-needed time," she says.

In her fiction writing, as well as her book reviews and articles for the webzine Fantasy Novel Review, the program alerts King-Wilds to awkward language - or worse, "the horrible typo," and allows her to correct such mistakes instantly. "I can fix things then and there," she comments, "without having to worry so much about my editor's flowing red ink pen." For her, TextAloud has proven to be "a time saver, an editor, a partner - even a preservationist of sanity" when deadlines approached.


So I wanted to give a quick run-through of how to setup and use the TextAloud Proofread hotkey for proofreading. Here is the FAQ response I usually give

One great way to improve your writing is with better proofreading. Spell checkers catch the typos but don't help much with missing or wrong words, or with bad grammar. Whether you write for a living or just want your emails to be mistake free, using TextAloud to listen to text will help catch most mistakes. To make this process even easier, in TextAloud 2.0 we've created a special proofreading process that makes catching mistakes and correcting them very simple.

You start by setting a proofread hotkey. Go to Options->Hotkey Setup on the TextAloud main menu, and select a hotkey combination for Proofreading. Hotkeys are special key combinations that you can press within any program, and as long as TextAloud is running (even if the window isn't displayed), TextAloud will take an action. You want the hotkey to be an obscure combination so that it will be unique and not in use by other programs. We recommend Control-Alt-Shift-P for Proofread. Once this is set, click OK. Now you can minimize the TextAloud window.

After typing in your document or email, highlight a paragraph of text with your mouse, then hold down the Shift, Control, and Alt keys, and press P. The TextAloud Proofread window will pop up. The text of the paragraph will be spoken, with each word highlighted. If you hear a mistake, simply click anywhere on the proofread window and speaking will stop, returning you to your original document to make the correction. You simply repeat this process through the document until it is mistake free. Based on the feedback we've heard so far, this easy process can quickly lead to mistake free writing.

From the TextAloud Manual

Proofreading with TextAloud

An often overlooked use for TextAloud is to help proofread. Spell Checkers within word processors and email clients help correct many common typing and spelling errors, but do little to correct other common problems such as typing the wrong word, leaving out words, or poorly constructed sentences. Proofreading the old fashioned way is often in ineffective too, because our brains are so adept at reading that we will often not catch mistakes. But hearing our own written words spoken back to us in another voice will almost always alert us to mistakes.

To assist with this proofreading task, TextAloud has a special Proofread HotKey and Popup Proofreading window. Via Options->HotKey Setup you can set a keyboard combination that will activate the proofreading window. Choose something obscure to insure other programs will not be using the combination. We suggest using Control-Shift-Alt-P, but you can experiment with any combination that works for you.

The theory behind using the Proofreading function is that you need to hear small sections of text at a time, while watching the words being highlighted. Since you typically aren’t typing this text within TextAloud, but within your email or word processing program, you need a way to quickly return to the text to make any corrections. This means that using the TextAloud main window could become cumbersome. So instead, with the Proofread HotKey, a popup window will show you the text, if you see a mistake, simply click on the window and speaking will stop and you will be returned to the program you are writing in to make corrections.

To demonstrate this process, assume you are typing a document in your word processor such as Microsoft Word. Once the document or a section of the document is complete and you are ready to proofread, return to the top and highlight a paragraph. Next, hit the Proofread HotKey combination (Control-Alt-Shift-P for example). The TextAloud Proofreading Window will appear as shown below:

Text from the highlighted paragraph will immediately begin speaking as words are highlighted. You can customize the size of the window, voice and speed used, as well as Font and Colors used for the text. These settings will be remembered for future use. Most users will increase speed to slightly faster than normal listening since this is text they are already familiar with.

If while listening and watching the text you find a mistake, simply click anywhere within the text area of this window and speaking will stop and the window disappears, returning you to your word processor. Correct the mistake you found, and repeat the process. If no mistake is found, when the paragraph is complete, the window disappears and you are ready to repeat the process with the next paragraph, until the document is completed. This process will greatly cut down on mistakes in your writing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would like to know how common it is for people to drop words when typing, that is, you have the word in your mind, but somehow it gets lost in the transmission to your fingers. For example, typing this comment just now, I initially dropped the word "the" before "transmission". I do this all the time, but no one I've talked to has ever heard of it.

This is what I use TTS for.

It still won't catch mistyped homophones. I never confuse "its" and "it's", but I often confuse "they're/their/there", although I know the difference, and if I look at them, I can quickly tell which one to use. How common is that?