Stupid Writing Tech Tricks – Editing and the PDF reader

As I’ve said, I’m a software developer, and there are times when I seriously feel like I’m going to be called up on charges of ‘First Degree Tech Abuse,’ but until then, I figured I’ll share some of my stupid tech tricks that have worked for me.  Who knows, maybe one of them will help you.

And so, my first Tech Trick: Editing and the PDF reader.  

(This technique can be used with any text to speech software or utility, but since I started with a PDF reader, that’s what I’m calling it.)

I have a problem when I edit.  No matter how many times I read something I’ve written, no matter how hard I try: I still read what I meant to write.  Sure, I’ll catch some of my errors, and being a standard issue tech, I’ll introduce more errors as I edit.  It’s human nature.   I’ll also miss some, no matter how hard I try: again,  human.

The problem:  How do I read what is actually in a document rather than what I’ve meant.  The standard answer I’ve been given is: Read it Out Loud.  My problem is, even when I read out loud, I still slip into reading what I meant to say.

The tech solution;  Let someone or something read the document for you.

Since it would probably cost way too much money to hire someone to sit in my passenger seat and read to me on my way to the office, I decided on the easier, less expensive route and let software read for me.

Since the first collection of documents I was reading were in PDF format, I started there.

Adobe Acrobat 9 comes with a “Read Out Loud” option (tucked away under the heading of ‘viewing options’) although you will have to save a copy of your document in PDF form in order to ‘read’ it.

ezPDF reader – An android app which was much easier to use during my commute than Adobe would have been.

There are other Text to Speech options available, some free, some paid such as:

Natural Reader 11 (which comes in several different versions, including free.  It offers multiple voices, and you can adjust the reading speed)

Kindle Kindle readers, at least the more recent versions have a Text to Speech option that will work on some books as well as text.

There are also numerous browser add-ons that can come very close to actual voices.  It’s a question of finding out what’s available and what, if any will work for you.

When I originally started having the software do the reading for me, I was looking for a way to pick up on missing or repeated words. But I quickly found another use and that was the fact that it let me separate myself from the words and focus on the story.

Yes, it will never replace a human reading a story, although some do come close, I actually got to hear when I used a phrase too many times.  I was able to move beyond my original intent into pacing and yes, finding what may be a glaring plot hole or something that just glared at me when I wasn’t lost in the words.  

It wasn’t long before I noticed that some of what I thought was dramatic dialog, turned out to sound more like a comedic children’s rhyme than actual drama.

They’re taking her to Charleston. To Charleston? To Charleston. I guess they’re taking her to Charleston.

As with any tool, you may find the software‘s pronunciation or timing is too awkward, you might find you’re spending too much time looking for software and not writing, but you might find it helps you with your editing.  

You never know until you try.

May 25, 2013


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