Proof reading? Let Hazel help you

A facebook colleague recently introduced me to a nifty little add-on for Word that has proved to be invaluable when proofreading and editing.  Honestly, I don’t know how I coped without it in the past.

I’m your typical destitute author and because of this, I do my own proof reading and editing.  Actually, I prefer to do it myself and even if I was rich I’d probably still do it.  One of the methods I employ to help me is to read aloud, as this brings a lot of mistakes to your notice that would pass you by when reading silently.  When mother is visiting me on her regular trips up from Cornwall, I read it to her.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a facebook colleague and he told me he finds it helpful to have his computer read his book to him.  When I heard this I was like, “huh?” and he then told me about Wordtalk.  Now, you’ve all no doubt been using this for decades, I’m always the last to know but just in case anyone hasn’t heard of it, it’s fantastic.  It’s an add-on to Word that you can download here.

It will appear on your Word taskbar as Add-Ins.  Click on that and you’ll get the Wordtalk controls.  I have the option of an English speaking chick or an American gal and once you get used to her monotone voice, you will find it amazingly helpful.  For instance, it is programmed to pause slightly at a comma, so I notice right away if I’ve missed one as she drones on forever without taking a break and it sounds totally unnatural.  Put the missing comma in and she takes a breath at just the right place to make your sentence sound just right.  When I read this same sentence aloud myself, I will naturally put this pause in, even without the comma there because subconsciously I know what I meant and how it should sound.

I’m finding that I’m catching a lot of spelling errors and duplicated words that I would skim when reading it myself.  Being a non human without a human  brain to interpret what is meant, all Wordtalk can do is reproduce what is written exactly as it is written, mistakes and all.  This makes the errors much more obvious and easy to correct.

There are some things it can’t cope with and there doesn’t appear to be a way to add to its vocabulary.  For instance, in dialogue I sometimes have my characters say “umm,” when they’re not sure about something.  The Wordtalk gal (Hazel or Zina) doesn’t recognise umm as a word so she speaks the letters individually, “you em em.”  There are a couple of other words I’ve noticed so far that she pronounces strangely but that may be due to differences in English and American English spelling.  It’s not a huge deal though, it’s quite amusing actually.

If you haven’t tried it, download Wordtalk and give it a go.  I recommend it highly.

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