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Old 04-17-2011, 01:07 PM   #1
petkusj
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Proofreading tip

Editing and re-editing your own work can make you hate it with a passion you reserve for spammers and people who kick dogs. And after a while you just start glossing over the text, not noticing that a question ended with a period or that a word is repeated.

So I’ve taken to having the computer read back to me what I’ve written and follow along. In Microsoft Word, just open the Speech window (in Office 2004 for Mac I have to right click in one of the toolbars), select the text you want spoken, and click Speak Selection.

You use Mac OS X’s System Preferences/Speech/Text to Speech panel to select the voice and the speed. For my book Good Cop, Dead Cop, I appropriately used Alex, for My Particular Friend Vicki.

The voices are not great and some words make you cringe — “yeah” in GCDC and “miss” in MPF, but they do make it easier to notice that repeated word or lack of a question mark or comma.
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Old 04-17-2011, 04:13 PM   #2
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Neal Asher once said that he reads his books back to front when proofreading to prevent himself from getting involved in the story and missing errors.
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Old 04-17-2011, 04:15 PM   #3
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Neal Asher once said that he reads his books back to front when proofreading to prevent himself from getting involved in the story and missing errors.
This is a trick that I use when proofing my technical illustrations for publishing It keeps me from correcting the text in my head.
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Old 04-17-2011, 06:47 PM   #4
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Another trick, but one that's almost too annoying to use, is to increase the letter spacing just enough that you're forced to see the individual letters instead of the whole word, but it sure makes reading slow.
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Old 04-17-2011, 07:01 PM   #5
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It's very hard to proof your own words, you already know what it is supposed to say and you're already that bored with what you wrote that your mind wanders. Without bigging myself up, I am a good proof reader, good enough to do it professionally if I wanted to (I don't).

But last night I read through one of my stories that went out in the wild a few months ago, and still found a mistake in it. Not a big one (palms instead of palm), and I doubt anyone who is likely to read it will even notice, but it's still annoying that it's there.

The point is though, get someone else to do your proofing. If you don't know anyone who's up to the job, there are plenty of people who will do it for free in return for a free read if it is something that they would buy anyway. It's only expensive when you need to pay someone to read a book they don't want to read.
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Old 04-17-2011, 08:20 PM   #6
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Let me start out by saying I'm very reluctant to pay someone a few hundred dollars to proofread a 99 cent e-book. I did a lot of editing earlier in my life, so I do have some sense of the discipline it takes. Also, I do have many readers who provide extra eyes. That is a huge help.

A couple of habits I have developed as a mostly self-editing author. One, I spell check just about every time I rewrite a paragraph. Only takes a moment to block and hit the F7 key. I catch things right away. Second, I read the finished text at 150 percent. Enlarging the font size really helps me to focus on each word.
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Old 04-17-2011, 10:36 PM   #7
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Let me start out by saying I'm very reluctant to pay someone a few hundred dollars to proofread a 99 cent e-book.
With enough sweet talking, you should be able to get a friend or family member to do it for you. Remember, they don't need to know anything about your subject -- they just have to be able to notice that you wrote "what" twice in a row. You just need someone with good attention to detail and basic literacy.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:49 AM   #8
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With enough sweet talking, you should be able to get a friend or family member to do it for you. Remember, they don't need to know anything about your subject -- they just have to be able to notice that you wrote "what" twice in a row. You just need someone with good attention to detail and basic literacy.
People like that aren't as common as you think, and the chance of finding one within your immediate family are pretty remote. I believe it's a very mild form of autism that makes such people strive for perfection, and people who can do it well also find it impossible to watch TV with broadcaster logos in the corner of the screen. Mistakes, or things that are "wrong" just jump out of the page (or screen) that "normal" people wouldn't notice.
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Old 04-18-2011, 08:26 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
People like that aren't as common as you think, and the chance of finding one within your immediate family are pretty remote. I believe it's a very mild form of autism that makes such people strive for perfection, and people who can do it well also find it impossible to watch TV with broadcaster logos in the corner of the screen. Mistakes, or things that are "wrong" just jump out of the page (or screen) that "normal" people wouldn't notice.
Ah, mr ploppy, I can relate to that. Not only can I proofread my own writing while also enjoying it for the umpteenth time, but I dislike broadcaster logos - and if the television is a few degrees from horizontal it niggles me. I go through life telling myself it doesn't matter, let it go...

(Btw, I'm a tad worried that your name is all lower case.)
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Old 04-18-2011, 10:22 AM   #10
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(Btw, I'm a tad worried that your name is all lower case.)
You're not the only one.

Things that obviously should be symmetrical but aren't (one of a row of square items slightly out of line, for instance), mini-blinds with the concave side toward the room, slightly open drawers, and, yes, those broadcaster logos, all drive me nuts. And lower-case forum logos (also greengrocers' apostrophes, misused commas, inconsistent spacing, and that thing people do with semicolons).

I have several close family members who can do my proofreading. None of them seem to share my issues with things that Just Aren't Right, but they're sufficiently aware of text that my errors (I'm particularly prone to duplicated words and other cut-and-paste errors) jump off the page at them. Maybe it's because we're all bookworms (yes, two whole families of them ... it was a memorable childhood shock to realize that other people aren't) but I've never had a problem finding a proofreader.

Someone who can actually understand what I've written, on the other hand ... there are times even I can't do that. I suspect that's prima facie evidence of my need for an editor.
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Old 04-18-2011, 12:53 PM   #11
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I've had friends who have agreed to read my book and have even caught the odd typo, but I have yet to find someone who can both read my book for enjoyment and proofreading. Let's face it, I have enough friends I can con to read my book to tell me if they like it, but very few friends who I can convince to read the book a second time for proofreading.

I do wish there were a way I could get the computer to read the book back to me and simultaneously highlight and enlarge the word being spoken, the way the Mac dock can enlarge the application under the mouse. I could probably write an AppleScript that would do this, but I probably should be writing my book instead of programming.

If they're are any AppleScripters reading this forum however ...
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Old 04-18-2011, 05:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
It's very hard to proof your own words, you already know what it is supposed to say and you're already that bored with what you wrote that your mind wanders. Without bigging myself up, I am a good proof reader, good enough to do it professionally if I wanted to (I don't).

But last night I read through one of my stories that went out in the wild a few months ago, and still found a mistake in it. Not a big one (palms instead of palm), and I doubt anyone who is likely to read it will even notice, but it's still annoying that it's there.
A good point. Put some distance, in terms of time, between reads. It's like having fresh eyes. Also, I have come to understand that I have certain stylistic and typing tics, and I spell check just for those, along with the dreaded double period and misused or missing quotes. I cannot type anything without misusing "form" for "from." I overuse certain phrases. Things like that. It is tedious work, perfect for those days when the creative muses are on a leave of absence.
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Old 04-19-2011, 04:39 PM   #13
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I made liberal use of Word's text-to-speech when proofreading my books. Though the voice generally butchers proper names it is great for editing dialogue. Conversations between characters that might look fine on paper can sound just awful when spoken out loud, so hearing it is vital to writing natural sounding dialogue.
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Old 04-19-2011, 05:36 PM   #14
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You can also buy other voices from cepstral.com if you find the one's supplied by your Mac or PC annoying. Some of the Cepstral voices, like Allison, sound quite good. On the website you can paste some of your own text and hear it read back, although it never sounds as good as the "canned" speech.
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Old 04-19-2011, 11:28 PM   #15
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I've done this before and it works a treat The only thing to keep in mind is to stay focused and not becoming a passive listener.
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