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Revision Tip – read text aloud

Here is a quick (and fun) tip to use during revisions of a manuscript.

As I’m revising, I often stumble over passages in a WIP, knowing something isn’t quite right with it but having no idea why.

Reading it out loud can help, but I don’t really like the sound of my own voice. I’ve discovered a way to convert text to speech (TTS) with the Speak command (aka Read Aloud) in Microsoft Word. Now that I’ve added Speak to my toolbar, I can highlight the pesky passage, close my eyes, and let a dude read it aloud in a slightly stilted (but surprisingly fluent) voice. While I listen to “Microsoft David” read the text, it can sometimes help me tune in to where the problem lies.

Speak/Read-Aloud is a useful feature, but Word makes it weirdly difficult to turn on. Use the instructions at this link!

I also suggest wearing headphones or warning your housemates. The first time my husband heard MS-David reading to me, it freaked him out a little.

Have you tried Speak/Read-Aloud or other TTS tools? Have Mac users tried VoiceOver? Does it handle fluency well?

16 responses to “Revision Tip – read text aloud”

  1. Gwyn says:

    I’m a strong proponent of hearing the text. I use Text Aloud, and purchased a voice with a lovely English accent for my historical writing. Of course, words like bow, content, and refuse, to name a few that can be verbs or nouns and are pronounced differently dependent upon usage, always tend to get the noun pronunciation, which can be jarring, but overall, does an excellent job and spares you the trouble–and the inevitable monotone–of reading aloud to yourself.

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    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      Oooh, I hadn’t thought of buying another voice. I’ll have to check that out.

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      • Gwyn says:

        I don’t know if MS word has an option for other voices. Text Aloud is a purchasable app I’ve been using for years–well before Microsoft added it to their line-up–and offers a large number of different voice options. It will also read your entire novel without pause, if you wish. Pause in the middle? No problem, it will pick up where you left off, or you can use the cursor function to cherry-pick your document for the areas you want to hear. They had a free trial when I bought mine. Don’t know if they still offer it, but if they do, give it a listen. It’s fun to play with the regional and international voices.

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  2. Great advice< Beth! I listened to my entire last book using MS David. I really feel it made a difference. Hint: If you're stuck as to where a conversation should go, listen to what you've written on the last few pages. Listening really pokes the muse.

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    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      I haven’t tried listening to the whole book. He only seems to read 2 pages at a time for me before he stops. So having to start him up again can be a bit annoying. Is there some trick for getting him to keep going?

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  3. Jennifer Bray-weber says:

    Great advice, Beth! I highly recommend reading out loud (no matter who is doing the reading) for edits. You can’t pick up on even the tiniest errors and it’s a good tool to use for cathing unnatural dialogue between characters.

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    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      Yes, passages with a lot of dialogue is where I use this tip the most.

      I find that, when I read aloud myself, I know how I meant it to sound and I naturally read it that way. But MS David doesn’t–and he gets tripped up over how the words flow, the reader might too.

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  4. I haven’t used the text-to-speech function, but I have been known to talk to myself. Great tip, Beth. 🙂

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    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      I don’t talk to myself much (because of the afore-mentioned hate-my-own-voice). The dude across the hall from me at work is blind. So I get to hear his VoiceOver a lot. Except he has it cranked up to 400 words a minute. I can’t understand it at that speed.

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  5. Tracy Brody says:

    I’ve started doing this and been amazed at how helpful it is. Catch those run on sentences, spelling errors and missing or extra words your eye doesn’t catch. And you’re right, they don’t make it easy to find this to activate, but once you’ve added to your toolbar, it makes it easy. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      You’re right about catching the missing words or extra/bogus words. Just a really useful way to let a free tool help you.

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  6. I read aloud a lot and would love another voice saying my words. Thanks for the tip, Beth!

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  7. Melanie Macek says:

    I read my MS aloud when I’m doing edits before sending to beta readers. I can usually get it done in a weekend with no other interruptions. I carry a clipboard and walk around the house, that way I’m up and moving, but believe it or not, it’s a great way to catch a run-on sentence! If I get a bit winded, the sentence is way too long. I may try word again. Last time I tried the text talk feature, it would only do a few pages at a time as well.

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