The other day, I found an invaluable tool for proofreading my short stories I have been working on.
I have been getting one of my shorts ready to enter into a competition. I had previously uploaded it to Scribophile in an effort to get critiques from third parties who would give me honest, unbiased criticism. I got three critiques, which were very in-depth and helpful to outline some errors. I quickly edited it with the corrections given to me by the Scribophile members and asked for another beta reader on Facebook. My father offered up, but sadly he was the only one.
It’s not that I have anything against my father proofreading my work, but there is always a feeling that family members and friends may ‘take it easy’ on you, not necessarily giving you their true opinion about whether they liked it or not. I am fortunate that my father is someone who would give me an honest response along with advice about where to fix it, which I have always been thankful for. He dully sent it back to me with a couple of minor alterations to tighten it up further.
I finally, feeling quite happy with the outcome of the story, decided to have my computer read the text to me as my eyes were getting tired from staring at the screen. Fortunately with Mac OS X Mountain Lion, the speaking setting is in the contextual list (right-click) and it will read you anything you highlight (or the entire page if required). In previous versions of OS X, you have to find the control in the System Preferences under Accessibility.
It was in sitting back letting my computer talk to me in the manner of professor Hawking that I picked up on a couple of errors in the text such as missed full stops, commas and misspelt words. For example, when I read through it, I couldn’t see that I had written ‘shinning’ instead of ‘shining’. It was but the moment to fix and something I wouldn’t have spotted had I just read it to myself (even out loud).
I have managed to record a brief paragraph which will illustrate the way mistakes become obvious when a computer reads them to you (this was an elaborate example so you can hear missing comas, fill stops and misspelt words. I’d like to think I would have picked up on these, but then again, you never know.
I have also checked and found that Windows users can get the same treatment. Having not used Windows for a very long time, I don’t know if the latest updates have screen readers like OS X. But I have found one that can be downloaded for free at screenreader.net. The app itself is called Thunder, and watching the video, appears to do the same as my onboard professor H did for me.