Ah. Remember the bliss of being read to as a child? It was awesome, and it’s not what this blog is about. I’m also not talking about audio books.
Alex is one of the voices living inside my computer. I’m running Mac OS 10.7.5. Alex and I have regular dates where he reads my stories back to me. Let me tell you when, why, and how. (If you use a PC, stick with me here…)
When? After a manuscript is complete, edited, and spell-checked. The best time for Alex and his ilk is when the story is solid and as perfect as you can make it. Otherwise, in my opinion, it’s a waste of time, because it does take a lot of time.
Why? At this stage of a manuscript’s life, the author has gone over it and over it. The whole thing is starting to blur together. It’s hard to see the story as it really is, not how it is in my mind.
It’s easy for my eyes to glaze over repetitive words, errors, and homophones. After a while, reading to myself, I start skimming or just plain zone out. Alex reads Every. Single. Word. I don’t know how many times he’s caught “the the” or something similar. When I hear him say “just” in every third sentence, I realize how many times I’ve used it.
Because the speed of the reading is steady, forcing me to look at each word, I also see most errors in punctuation, like the occasional missed apostrophe or even period. No method is perfect, and even multiple proofreaders probably won’t catch every error, but I feel confident that Alex does a superb job of helping me catch many if not most or all.
- Who’s Alex? And why should he read your manuscript to you? click to tweet
- How can you use the text to speech function for editing fiction? click to tweet
How? That depends on whether you’re on a Mac or a PC and also on what operating system you’re running.
Mac Operating System
If on Mac, click the apple in the top left. System Preferences. System. Speech. Text-to-Speech. (I’m running OSX (10.7.5).
The operating system has 6 default voices, 3 female and 3 male, plus 16 other English voices (with a variety of accents) that may be downloaded. There are downloadable novelty voices, in case you want your manuscript spoken as though an alien is reading it, and a few languages other than English. My preference is the male voice Alex. To me, his voice is the nicest to listen to.
I appreciate being able to set the reading speed. I have Alex set a little faster than “normal,” which is at the halfway point between slow and fast. This enables him to read about 10,000 words per hour, and I don’t get a sore throat from doing it myself!
To begin reading, I highlight the text I’d like read to me in Word, Scrivener, online, or nearly anywhere. Option-Escape acts as a toggle switch to turn the function on or off.
I set aside a day or two before sending a manuscript out, whether it’s to a critique partner or my editor. This means I listened to Wild Mint Tea four times over the course of a few months. Each time it was well worthwhile.
Because there is no pause feature, I highlight a scene at a time, select Option-Escape, then click the back arrow to return my cursor to the beginning of the scene. I read along while Alex reads to me, and can edit while he reads. If I’ve made a change, I save when he stops reading and before highlighting the next scene.
It forces me to read every single word as it is written, not start to zone out or skim. I hear words that repeat too often. I hear many spelling errors, see many homophones (not homonyms so much), and awkwardly worded sentences.
I also use Alex when reading a blog or website that is white-on-black or other difficult contrast or font. This may not be important for many people, but it’s helpful for those of us with poor eyesight.
Windows 8 Operating System
She says Narrator works, but only in Word, not across the entire operating system. Enter your Control panel. Ease of Access Center. Start Narrator. Click Voice Settings to control voice, speed, etc. Exit Narrator.
Then open Word. Add the Speak function to the quick access toolbar (see below), highlight the text you want to hear, and click the speak button. (It can be glitchy, but clicking again often fixes that).
Here is how to put that function into the Quick Access Toolbar: File -> Options -> Quick Access Toolbar. Select “All Commands” in the list and then select “Speak” in the next list. Click the “Add” button so that the “Speak” command appears in the Quick Access Toolbar. Click OK and you will have a new “Speak” button in the Quick Access Toolbar.
How about you? Have you ever used text-to-speech as an editing tool? If you use a different trick, share in comments!