Although this has nothing to do with enterprise software per se, almost everybody in business does lots of writing, and proofreading that writing is always a pain. I know this pain first hand after once being hauled over the coals in a performance evaluation for the errors and typos in my emails. Let me share a technique that I have found to be very effective for both proofreading and improving writing.
While grammar-checking tools are a huge help when it comes to catching writing mistakes, many authors still struggle with proofreading, especially with things like emails and blog articles. One technique is to leave the writing for a few days and then proofread it, but that only goes so far. Unfortunately, you still miss too much because you read what you think you wrote, not what you actually did write.
Software is taking over the world, so why not let it help by reading your prose aloud to you? Text-to-speech is a very powerful way to proofread because the computer is doing the reading and not you, the author. You hear what you actually wrote, and mistakes, poor phrasings and the wrong order of ideas are suddenly apparent.
I’m a clumsy typist, forever typing “you” instead of “your,” and vice versa. I make the same mistake with “out” and “our”. Unfortunately, grammar checkers don’t always catch these kinds of errors, but when the computer reads your writing aloud, they jump out at you.
Text-to-speech also helps with the order of ideas when writing, because they don’t always flow as well as they could. Sometimes it is the order of words or phrases in a sentence, sometimes the order of sentences themselves and occasionally the order of paragraphs. In all cases when the computer reads my prose aloud, problems with the flow of the text are immediately apparent.
There are an optimum number of words to use when writing. Too few words and people don’t understand the message; too many words and the message gets diluted. When the computer reads your prose aloud, you quickly spot those places where you have used the wrong number of words. Sometimes I catch myself repeating the same idea in different words, often with clumsy prose. Again, text-to-speech helps you identify these kinds of problems so they can be rewritten.
If you are using Microsoft Word, customize the Quick Access toolbar to include “Speak.” If you are working in a Chrome browser, try Speakit! from the Chrome Web store. I don’t use a Mac, but this article on Wikihow for OS X should help you enable the text-to-speech option.
We all look down on somebody who makes mistakes in their emails. One typo may be forgiven, but two or three errors and the sender has all but destroyed their credibility. I have developed the habit of listening to my emails before sending them, and caught innumerable errors. Even those quick one-liner emails often contain errors or simply are not clear enough.
When writing articles for CIO.com text-to-speech proofreading comes to the rescue when struggling with a paragraph. Once an article is complete, I’ll use a grammar checker (Grammarly in my case) to clean up the text and then have the computer read the entire article to me. It usually takes several passes to polish that article, but it works very well.
Give it a try. Let the computer do the work of proofreading for you, and you will be amazed by how much it improves your writing.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?