Saturday, November 5, 2016

Text-to-Speech as Rudimentary Proofreader

In general, most people are challenged to read things they’ve written and not see their own mistakes. Part of this is because in our mind, we “see” what we think we said, but not what we actually wrote. It is usually the little errors like “the the” or thinking we wrote a word when it is not actually there. I am guilty of all these little errors, especially now being challenged with failing health. I’ve read articles by professional writers that advocate writing your final draft, sticking in a drawer until the following day, and then reading it to ensure it is error free. Others recommend sharing your written work with a trusted friend so they can proofread it. These are both viable and reliable methods, but neither of them work for me. The first one doesn’t work because of my failing memory. I can write an article, file it away, and promptly forget I even wrote it. (I only discover it when I check my “unpublished” folder days later.) The latter choice also doesn’t work because I am retired and trying to find a friend that doesn’t already have a busy life of their own and can make time for me just doesn’t work.

So I have a third solution. After going through spell- and grammar-checking in MS-Word, I copy the whole text into a text-to-speech app offered free by Microsoft. (This only works on Windows-based systems, so I do this on my laptop.) Microsoft doesn’t attach a fancy name to this, it is merely SAPI5 TTSAPP. As I listen to what I wrote, I am easily able to capture the missed or double words. I also listen for sentence structure and general thought organization.

I share this because it dawned on me that this app is not common knowledge. I have mentioned it to a couple other bloggers that had never heard of it. Feel free to click on the link in the paragraph above and download the free app. Just one small caution: If you write articles with links in them (as I do), if you paste that into this app, the links will expand and include the URL (http://www.......) which can be very annoying and break your concentration. To overcome this, I first copy the whole text into Notepad (which strips out all the URL info), and then copy the text in Notepad into the text reader.

Addendum: It appears Microsoft now includes this app as a piece of much larger apps. It is no longer available as a stand-alone app. I searched and found one highly-rated app called eSpeak. It is also free but I have no experience with it.

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