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Old 01-29-2013, 07:13 AM   #1
gmw
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Read-back software

I often try to read my text aloud when editing, as one way of trying to smooth out the flow and pick up errors. But I quickly tire of that, so I'm rarely comprehensive. I recently received the suggestion of using Dragon Naturally Speaking, or finding some other read-back software, to do the read-aloud part for me.

Has anyone else tried this? Does it work? Any software recommendations?
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:14 AM   #2
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I use the text-to-speech function on my Kindle and/or CoolReader on my Android phone as an extra level of proof-reading. I've found that it makes some errors more obvious, since it reads exactly what is written, instead of what it expects to be written.
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Old 01-29-2013, 09:59 AM   #3
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Do you find that to be useful? I would have thought there'd be lots of errors that wouldn't be picked up that way, such as incorrect use of homonyms ("your" instead of "you're" is a very common error, for example), or misplaced apostrophes.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:19 AM   #4
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I find it useful as an extra level of proof-reading, I certainly wouldn't recommend replacing a human editor or proof-reader with TTS software. Personally, I use it as a final check. Usually it doesn't find anything, but very occasionally it'll find a word that looks sufficiently similar to the correct word that humans don't notice it, but when it's read out it's very obviously wrong. Unfortunately I can't think of an example right now, but it has found errors that humans missed.

A good editor will find a lot more errors than TTS will find (as you say, TTS won't pick up on misplaced apostrophes, but an editor will), and if you have an editor go through it first, there probably won't be any errors for TTS to find, or very few. Editors are human, though, and I'm paranoid, so I like having an extra layer of testing. To put it into perspective, I think TTS has found one or two mistakes out of four books, so it's contribution is very small, but since there's not much work involved in letting a computer read to me, I think it's worth the effort.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:27 AM   #5
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TTS can be quite useful, but not infallible by any means. I found errors that I just kept glossing over, because I was seeing what I expected to see. I also found things that weren't technically wrong, but sounded wrong when I heard it read. I was able to change the text to something less awkward. You can't blindly trust TTS, but it can be helpful.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:43 AM   #6
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Spoiler:
It says "PARIS IN THE THE SPRING" rather than "PARIS IN THE SPRING". Many people just don't notice that there is an extra "THE", because it is on the next line and it isn't what they expect. I remember seeing this a long time ago, and I couldn't see the problem. It's obvious now, but it wasn't so obvious then. This is one sort of thing that text to speech can help you catch.

Last edited by QuantumIguana; 01-29-2013 at 10:47 AM.
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Old 01-29-2013, 10:46 AM   #7
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Indeed. Someone's just pointed out to me that in one of the books I created for the MR library, "Moonfleet", by John Meade Falkner, there are two cases where the name of the pirate "Blackbeard" is written as "Blackboard" (more than likely the result of auto spelling "correction" in the source document). That's a book I could have sworn that I'd very, very thoroughly proof-read, but I must have just glossed right over those words, because I knew what it "should" say. That's certainly a case where TTS would have been a help.
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Indeed. Someone's just pointed out to me that in one of the books I created for the MR library, "Moonfleet", by John Meade Falkner, there are two cases where the name of the pirate "Blackbeard" is written as "Blackboard" (more than likely the result of auto spelling "correction" in the source document). That's a book I could have sworn that I'd very, very thoroughly proof-read, but I must have just glossed right over those words, because I knew what it "should" say. That's certainly a case where TTS would have been a help.
So are you going to 'erase' the "blackboard" errors soon HarryT? Sorry I just couldn't resist such a perfect opening.
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Old 01-29-2013, 11:54 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by QuantumIguana View Post


Spoiler:
It says "PARIS IN THE THE SPRING" rather than "PARIS IN THE SPRING". Many people just don't notice that there is an extra "THE", because it is on the next line and it isn't what they expect. I remember seeing this a long time ago, and I couldn't see the problem. It's obvious now, but it wasn't so obvious then. This is one sort of thing that text to speech can help you catch.
Point taken QuantumIguana, I didn't even see what was up til I read your spoiler. It's like some things are invisible to a reader's sight.
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Old 01-29-2013, 03:04 PM   #10
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What good free ones are there for Mac OS X?
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Old 01-29-2013, 03:42 PM   #11
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What good free ones are there for Mac OS X?
It is built into the system. You can get text read from almost every application that handles text. It is under the Edit menu.
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Old 01-29-2013, 04:21 PM   #12
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It is built into the system. You can get text read from almost every application that handles text. It is under the Edit menu.
LOL duh
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Old 01-29-2013, 06:58 PM   #13
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I wasn't thinking to replacing normal editing, just enhancing my own read aloud technique.

QuantumIguana, your example is very much what I had in mind, although I have searching for "the the" in my list of edit checks already, because it seems to happen to me regularly.

I also thought it might help to find swapped words, missing words and extra words. This often seems to involve "a" and "as"; they go wandering around on their own, and when I'm reading over the text they magically jump back into place by the time they reach my eye.

Anyone have good suggestions for Windows?
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Old 02-02-2013, 08:06 AM   #14
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I'm curious. Does any of you that are not native english speakers, write in english, and use software to get your writing read aloud, to catch all the Blackboard errors (Yes, that is an official term from now on, thanks HarryT! )? Im not sure I would catch them anyway, apart from the obvious ones.
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Old 02-14-2013, 05:43 PM   #15
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Do any members know of read-back software with the function to save it as an MP3 or equivalent, so I can play it back on an iPod. Thanks.
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