Taking a Fresh Listen

The process of editing a dissertation chapter can be complicated and mind-numbing for so many reasons. Something that happens in the course of writing and revising is that you become callused and numb to errors that you would otherwise catch: strange word choices that “seemed like a good idea at the time,” missing words, etc. For those of us who like to write with spelling/grammar checker turned off, add to this list simple spelling mistakes.

Over the past two days I have been working my way through a 75-page chapter. As I found my eyes glossing over the words and pages that had become so familiar, I decided it was time for a new approach to editing. Enter Scrivener and the “speak” function.

If you select a block of text in Scrivener and then right-click on this text, one of the options that appears is “Start speaking.” If you select this option, you will begin to hear a computerized voice read your prose to you at a nice, easy pace. Yes, the voice sounds like a computer, and yes it is just a bit annoying at first. After a few minutes, you will get used to it.

As Scrivener read my document to me, I was able to catch not only egregious spelling errors, but places where I had duplicated and omitted words. What’s more, I was able to “hear” when a sentence just didn’t sound right, or when I had reused a similar word or phrase in too close of proximity.

The “speak” function is certainly not unique to Scrivener. I believe the most recent version of Adobe Acrobat Pro will read a .pdf to you, as long as it has readable text. Amar Sagoo’s Tofu has a similar function built in. If you write in Scrivener, however, the choice is obvious.

Go ahead, take a listen. You might be surprised!

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