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Writer’s Craft #27 – Editing with TTS

July 4, 2011
Brian Rathbone

Fantasy author Brian Rathbone

Brian Rathbone runs a busy web presence and is author of the Godsland fantasy series. He is also a technologist and friend of fellow writers whom he features on podioracket.com I asked Brian to comment on how he uses text-to-speech (TTS) software to help him edit.


Do you find editing as challenging as I do? Though I employ professional editors, I try to catch the silly mistakes, so they can concentrate on more important factors. Even when I let my work sit for weeks before editing, my brain tends to see what it wants to see. Recently, though, I found technology that improves my editing: text-to-speech (TTS). While far from perfect, TTS has come a long way.

At first, I used TTS to listen to my manuscripts during road trips, which helped me identify plot holes, inconsistencies, and other high-level issues. Using TTS while editing at my computer provides even greater value. Errors my eyes glide over leap out at me from the audio, making my editing far more productive.

A number of devices support TTS, but I’m using an Android-based phone with an app called ezPDF. I even purchased a nicer sounding voice from SVOX. The software has a bad habit of pronouncing punctuation and mispronouncing some words, but for the $3 I have invested, I’m quite satisfied. I also realized I could mass replace some punctuation and change problem words to phonetic spellings, which yields a more pleasant listen. I just have to remember to make those changes in a separate document. Overall, I’ve found this technique extremely useful.

Do you use technology for editing? What makes your editing time more effective?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2011 11:43 am

    Cool idea, I’ve never considered using TTS, although I do read the manuscript aloud which is a similar but dated technology. ;P I think I’ll give TTS a shot as it must provide a sense of rhythm and would help put some distance between me and the page.

    Thanks!

  2. July 4, 2011 1:37 pm

    Absent of technology, just reading your story aloud should be part of your editing process. Amazing how many clunkers you can discover, especially in descriptions or dialog, when you are forced to read it differently, i.e. for reading aloud purposes.

    Also I tend to write in one file, with single spacing and a “pleasant” font such as Book Antiqua, but then reformat for Standard Manuscript with Courier 12 double-spaced. Reading through that will also find errors that you gloss over in your “writing” view.

    Dr. Phil

  3. Lynda Williams permalink
    July 4, 2011 5:20 pm

    Clever tip about the font change, Dr. Phil! Never thought of that. I have turned all first draft text blue and switched to black when edited, when working on things in chunks. And I do enjoy listening to books on audio but haven’t tried TTS on my own manuscript.

  4. July 4, 2011 6:24 pm

    I use TTS when proofing a copy-edited ms against my original. I use ReadPlease, which is free software. I load my original into the program and have it read it to me as I follow along in the revised ms version.

  5. July 5, 2011 9:23 am

    I’ve used TTS for many years for editing. It’s also really useful for electronic galleys when you are proofing your book for publication.

    Both Windows and all the Mac OS systems have TTS included so it’s readily available. If you can’t find it on your system, check your OS disk.

Trackbacks

  1. How the unnatural speech of TTS can help your writing sound more natural | scuwiffy.com: the blog and website of writer Neill R Bell-Shaw

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