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Adobe Acrobat Read Out Loud

Hello fellow writers. If you're anything like me, you tend to drop words or accidentally type word substitutions. Almost everyone does it when they're in a hurry—or maybe just because they're getting old, like me. And after you've read a chapter fifty times trying to rewrite it for the 49th time, you're bound to skip over words and miss errors that crop up.

Thus, I thought I'd share this little tip that I recently discovered. Adobe Acrobat has something called Read Out Loud. If you export your document to a PDF, you can have Acrobat read it out loud to you. Since it reads every single word, and doesn't skip anything, you will hear a host of errors.

I sit at the computer with the Word file open, let Acrobat read me the PDF version, and then immediately correct errors as I hear them. The voice isn't too terribly mechanical; it's fairly natural. It does often mispronounce certain words that have different pronunciations based on context, verb vs adjective, i.e. 'close' (as to close something), or 'close' (as in not far away), for example. For the record, it pronounces the word as the verb every time. But, otherwise, it's very helpful for snagging those irritating errors.

Try it sometime, if you haven't already.

—Michael

Comments

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    I am not sure that would be of any help because people seem to have a habit if not fully taking in what is being said to them, by a machine or otherwise. Most OS have text to speech built in if needed, anyway, for those with poor eyesight. It's called Narrator in Windows, and can eventually get on your nerves!  :-)

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Well, it certainly helped me!
  • This is similar to advice I have given to many people. Taking a clue from Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote everything to be read aloud, I urge writers to read their own work aloud. Doing this forces you to read every word---where there is the danger of scanning or glossing over words and sentences when reading silently. Not only does this make you aware of things like misused or missing words, bad grammar and punctuation, etc, but the rhythm and cadence of what you have written as well. Does it sound right? Does it make sense?

    While I think that greyowlstudio has a viable idea, I think reading your work aloud yourself might have more value.
  • I actually do both. Maybe it's just me, but when I've read something many times before, I find myself skipping words regardless of whether it's aloud or not--or more importantly, I sometimes don't catch some word substitutions. By having the computer read it, I know that every word is going to be read exactly as it is. On the other hand, you're right about cadence. The computer is rather robotic by comparison and doesn't always read it correctly in rhythm. It also ignores '—' (em dashes) completely, treating them as no pause at all, which is frankly rather irritating.

    —Michael
  • The computer is not going to find homonyms, either. For instance, you may hear "The man with the hoarse voice said the boat was for sale," but you may have written "The man with the horse voice said the boat was four sail." 
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    "While I think that greyowlstudio has a viable idea, I think reading your work aloud yourself might have more value. "

    Yes. The latter would be of greater help to some. But do we all not 'read aloud' to ourselves in our heads? Possibly it can be best to leave the text alone for a good time, then go back to it, to see if it still makes sense. Or at least says what you intended to say. Or is even full of mistakes previously unnoticed.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited January 30
    No. By "read aloud" I mean exactly that. Reading "aloud" in one's head is how we read everything. Speaking every word aloud forces you to not skip over anything. You have to be aware of every word. Which is the whole point of reading out loud.

    This really brings us to the central problem of self-editing: the lack of objectivity. There is a strong, and natural, tendency to read what you think is there or what you think you wrote, rather than what you actually did write. And, of course, what makes perfect sense to the writer---because they know what they meant to say---may not make any sense to an objective reader.

    Reading aloud helps get past some of this but it is still no substitute for a wholly objective eye. 

    I recently read a large collection of articles a friend of mine had written on the history of film. He had carefully read and re-read them many times but, I discovered, invariably spelled a great many names wrong. This is not something spellcheck would have flagged and, probably because he really thought the names were spelled the way he spelled them, he would never have caught these errors himself.

    This is why I always discourage self-editing.


  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    "No. By "read aloud" I mean exactly that. Reading "aloud" in one's head is how we read everything. Speaking every word aloud forces you to not skip over anything. You have to be aware of every word. Which is the whole point of reading out loud."

    I see no difference, but that's just me. But I do spend a lot of time in my head.

    "This really brings us to the central problem of self-editing: the lack of objectivity. There is a strong, and natural, tendency to read what you think is there or what you think you wrote, rather than what you actually did write. And, of course, what makes perfect sense to the writer---because they know what they meant to say---may not make any sense to an objective reader."

    Very true. It is why I go over my work many many times. Usually at the end of a chapter. Then at the end of the next, and so on. Or even sit staring at the words for ages. Even when I think I have finished, I go back and forward, many times. Then I will often leave it alone for a long time. then take another look, or many.

    "Reading aloud helps get past some of this but it is still no substitute for a wholly objective eye."

    I often wonder if some writers simply want to get their great works out there. Editing and Proofreading, not to mention all the other prep a self-publisher has to do, can be very very boring. Not at all fun, like the actual writing can be.

    "I recently read a large collection of articles a friend of mine had written on the history of film. He had carefully read and re-read them many times but, I discovered, invariably spelled a great many names wrong. This is not something spellcheck would have flagged and, probably because he really thought the names were spelled the way he spelled them, he would never have caught these errors himself."

    He may have not spelled them wrong in the first place if he had looked them up. Even in fiction there can be a lot of research, which can also get to be boring. But people should be very aware that there are proofreading and even editing services that use software such as Word. Beware of prices that appear very cheap, because doing it the hard and true way is expensive.

    "This is why I always discourage self-editing."

    It is indeed not for everyone.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • "No. By "read aloud" I mean exactly that. Reading "aloud" in one's head is how we read everything. Speaking every word aloud forces you to not skip over anything. You have to be aware of every word. Which is the whole point of reading out loud."

    I see no difference, but that's just me. But I do spend a lot of time in my head.

    a·loud
    əˈloud/
    adverb
    1. 1.
      audibly; not silently or in a whisper.


    I often wonder if some writers simply want to get their great works out there. Editing and Proofreading, not to mention all the other prep a self-publisher has to do, can be very very boring. Not at all fun, like the actual writing can be.

    An excuse I hear all the time is that an author doesn't want an editor "rewriting" their deathless prose. That is not what an editor does, of course.


    "I recently read a large collection of articles a friend of mine had written on the history of film. He had carefully read and re-read them many times but, I discovered, invariably spelled a great many names wrong. This is not something spellcheck would have flagged and, probably because he really thought the names were spelled the way he spelled them, he would never have caught these errors himself."

    He may have not spelled them wrong in the first place if he had looked them up. Even in fiction there can be a lot of research, which can also get to be boring. 

    I think much of his problem was in thinking that was how those names and words were in fact spelled. Being convinced of that he would see no reason to double-check. This is yet one more reason to have an objective editor.

    PS I love doing research!


  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    No. By "read aloud" I mean exactly that. Reading "aloud" in one's head is how we read everything. Speaking every word aloud forces you to not skip over anything. You have to be aware of every word. Which is the whole point of reading out loud."

    I see no difference, but that's just me. But I do spend a lot of time in my head.

    a·loud
    əˈloud/
    adverb
    1. 1.
      audibly; not silently or in a whisper.

    Snigger. I know the meaning of the word. Surely you must 'hear' your voice in your head as you read? (Or even as you type?) At an early age we were taught to read silently, and then not to mouth words as we read them, because there's no need to. We 'hear' the words in our heads. Not also speaking them is just cutting out the middlemen. Your mouth and your ears. One interesting thing is that if one writes things down, even when there's no real need to, one can remember it better. Although not necessarily spot mistakes!


    I often wonder if some writers simply want to get their great works out there. Editing and Proofreading, not to mention all the other prep a self-publisher has to do, can be very very boring. Not at all fun, like the actual writing can be.

    An excuse I hear all the time is that an author doesn't want an editor "rewriting" their deathless prose. That is not what an editor does, of course.


    Not as such. No. They 'advise.'


    "I recently read a large collection of articles a friend of mine had written on the history of film. He had carefully read and re-read them many times but, I discovered, invariably spelled a great many names wrong. This is not something spellcheck would have flagged and, probably because he really thought the names were spelled the way he spelled them, he would never have caught these errors himself."

    He may have not spelled them wrong in the first place if he had looked them up. Even in fiction there can be a lot of research, which can also get to be boring. 

    I think much of his problem was in thinking that was how those names and words were in fact spelled. Being convinced of that he would see no reason to double-check. This is yet one more reason to have an objective editor.

    PS I love doing research!

    With the varying spelling to be seen on line nowadays, and in SMS, etc etc. even in writing, it can be confusing what is right and what is not. (Same with punctuation in fact.) American spelling creeping in to English spelling happens a lot, as an example. How people pronounce words can confuse how they are spelled, too. But a name is a name. Although at times I get called Lomax!

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Librarian
    Okay, Mr Lomas you're making it clear your prolonged absence from the fora wasn't due to medical trauma -- good to know since my mother had three strokes and lingered for ten years. Let me save you and Ron some debate time.

    Different individuals have different linguistic capabilities. Some people may mentally 'hear' words when they read them while others have to actually hear the words spoken. Similarly some people can learn multiple languages with ease while others struggle with just one.

    Pronunciation of words is also quite often dependent upon where someone grew up as well as when. If you can fully understand a Geechee [a speaker of Gullah] the first time you hear one speaking English, I'll prepare you lunch.

    Research can be boring to some people while others find the pursuit of knowledge to be fascinating. Even when tedious, research on one topic can be fascinating due to the other lines of research that tend to appear, but that's just my take.

    An author editing their own work is another case of differing capabilities wherein some can and some can't. I prefer to finish something and let it sit long enough to feel like someone else's work when I start to edit -- I do okay which is good because I can't afford an editor.

    I hope I haven't caused offense to either you or Ron but as I let Elizabeth A. M. Windsor know a bit back, I am trying to teach My Graces how to be nice.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Okay, Mr Lomas you're making it clear your prolonged absence from the fora wasn't due to medical trauma

    Not as such. But it may have been a sickness of a kind.

     -- good to know since my mother had three strokes and lingered for ten years.

    Lingering is a good way of getting older.

    Let me save you and Ron some debate time.

    That will be the day.

    Different individuals have different linguistic capabilities. Some people may mentally 'hear' words when they read them while others have to actually hear the words spoken. Similarly some people can learn multiple languages with ease while others struggle with just one.

    Indeed. Not everyone is the same. Brains are wired up differently. So reading out aloud will not work for everyone. Apparently some people also think in pictures as well as words, and others cannot. There's some scheme that works out how a person learns, before attempting to teach them anything, then the course uses that tailored personalised method. Many scoff at the idea though. 

    Pronunciation of words is also quite often dependent upon where someone grew up as well as when.

    Quite so. Once upon a time there was 'BBC English', where everyone on the BBC spoke exactly the same, often very 'cultured', somewhat like the Queen still does!

     If you can fully understand a Geechee [a speaker of Gullah] the first time you hear one speaking English, I'll prepare you lunch.

    (This can be so annoying at times, where the last thing typed vanishes when it autosaves. Oh well I will type it again and hope.) Many other English speakers would possibly say that that is not English then, but the same is often said of many British dialects. 

    Research can be boring to some people while others find the pursuit of knowledge to be fascinating. Even when tedious, research on one topic can be fascinating due to the other lines of research that tend to appear, but that's just my take.

    I agree.

    An author editing their own work is another case of differing capabilities wherein some can and some can't. I prefer to finish something and let it sit long enough to feel like someone else's work when I start to edit -- I do okay which is good because I can't afford an

    editor.

    Aye.

    I hope I haven't caused offense to either you or Ron

    Not so far.

     but as I let Elizabeth A. M. Windsor know a bit back, I am trying to teach My Graces how to be nice.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Perhaps I might be able to ... advance... the discussion.

    When one reads in one's head, one transfers a series of thoughts to one's mind. The brain may or may not see these thoughts as words. For example, if someone passes you a note that says "your bum is on fire" you will probably envision flames near a sensitive part of your person. You may not later be able to recall the exact wording. Or if a passage describes a scene, you may envision the scene without consciously thinking about the details. That is a part of the point of poetry; to get you to envision a scene, an emotion, or a thought.

    But when one reads aloud, there are three distinct input streams into the mind. One sees the word, cognitively analyzing it as it goes by; one passes the word to the speech center and analyzes it as it is spoken; and the passage is reinforced by the auditory input of hearing the passage.

    That is why we were forced to read aloud as children, in those horrific reading circles. It was not so that the sight-readers could be tortured by having to listen to the adventures of Dick and Jane painfully sounded out by the phonetic readers. It is a learning tool: The three paths through the brain each reinforce the others, allowing better retention of the matter being read. Which, in this case, was the painful adventures of Dick and Jane,

    Further, as Ron pointed out, the process slows the stream of words, because each must pass through three parts of the brain: Visual, Speech, and Auditory. Slowing the stream makes it more likely that you'll catch errors and incongruities. Reading to your stream of consciousness will not necessarily do this. The brain automatically corrects errors, and there are some amusing studies on automatic error correction in reading. So it is a good idea to read your stories aloud to yourself.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Not everyone's brain works the same way.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • In minor details, yes, there are differences. In the broad strokes, most brains tend to be wired the same way. In a neurologically typical brain, visual input, audible output, and audible input will result in the strong reinforcement of the subject matter. Feel free to discuss the matter with your favorite neuroscientist should you doubt me.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    They would disagree with you. You are sat on the internet. Look up recent research. Well not all that recent really.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • ...
  • BksOfBrownBksOfBrown Creator
    edited February 5
    If I may...I too used the 'read aloud' in adobe and found that it read quiet fluidly.  I noticed that I have typed the wrong word even tho it read right on  the PC..After I had gone over my novel several times, I was confident that the typos were minimum.  However, I had another pair of eyes look at it, and was surprised to find errors all over the place.  In some ways, yes it's frustrating, BUT I'm also glad and appreciate that a second pair of eyes looked at it before I published it.

    So don't depend of your own eyes or the eye of the PC (even grammarly, or like program for that matter) to 'edit the book' for you.  Have someone else (preferably not family or close friends).  

    Hope that helped.

    MCB
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Other views can be useful. It's normally the job of editors and proof-readers, but with self-publishing that's usually yourself!

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Regarding what BksofBrown wrote: "So don't depend of your own eyes or the eye of the PC (even grammarly, or like program for that matter) to 'edit the book' for you.  Have someone else (preferably not family or close friends)." This could not be more true.

    Absolutely do not depend on programs like Grammarly or Read Out Loud, let alone Spell Check. In fact, don't even depend on having your book read aloud to you by another human being.

    The only benefits you will possibly gain from having your book read aloud will come from reading it aloud yourself. By the same token, do not depend upon editing your own work. No author is objective enough to do that effectively. Get the MS in as good a shape as you can and then have someone independently and objectively read it. As BksofBrown intimated, someone experienced and knowledgeable would be best.
  • I think everyone has interesting viewpoints here. While I was writing my novel, I was suffering from Lyme Disease. (It's why I invented my aliens; they're something of a metaphor for a bacteria that keeps coming back.) Lyme has a way of scrambling the brain; it's called brain fog. And the writing was a specific way of fighting back. Nevertheless, I have a tendency to drop words and create odd word substitutions periodically, and the computer with its computer perfection tends to read every word, even if not always in the correct meter.

    So, I do all three. I read silently when editing and I need to move quickly, have the computer read out loud to weed out mistakes, and then read aloud to make sure the meter and timing are correct.

    Kevin has a certain point, by the way. Subvocalization is a real thing. The centers of the brain that control speech fire whether you read aloud or not. This is why people's lips move sometimes even when reading silently or even when thinking hard. I myself do this sometimes. There's nothing wrong with it; it's a perfectly natural thing, especially when concentrating very carefully on the words, and it doesn't indicate low intellect as many suppose. In fact, it can help to reduce the amount of errors as one edits. It can be a barrier to reading fast however, if one doesn't learn to control it.

    —Michael
  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Librarian
    The Lyme 'brain fog' sounds a lot like the 'fibro-fog' experienced by Fibromyalgia patients.

    Per your other post it's good to see you found an editor.
  • I immediately thought of the Brain-Cloud from the movie "Joe versus the volcano."
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