Tag Archives: computer applications

Letting ‘Fred’ Do Some of the Proofing

As the eyes strain with the load, it can be a relief to sit back and let Fred have a go at your mangled prose. 

If you do any amount of writing as a routine part of your work, you might want to check out what I only recently noticed on my home version of Microsoft Word. The program will read back to you what you have written, not with any great finesse, but with a degree of verbal accuracy. And that’s quite a plus.  I’m told that some other programs have this feature as well. And I am surprised at how useful it is.

Most of us aren’t very good proofreaders. If you are like me, your brain fills in missing words as a passage is scanned. It’s a good habit for speedreading, but a bad one for accurate writing. So turning on the “Read Aloud” function available under the “review” heading at the top of Word will put a male or female voice to work reading back exactly what you wrote.  And it turns out that hearing your prose immediately picks up missed and overused words.  My reader, who I call Fred, also will plow on if no punctuation exists: an immediate red flag. To be sure, Fred hasn’t a clue what he is saying.  There is no interpretation of the words, no useful intonation.  Even so, he is good enough at pausing at periods and comas, or reminding me that maybe three adjectives in a row might be too many.  And he will certainly trip over missing articles or–in my case–a whole collection of them that were never deleted as my editing evolved.

Fred can also speed-read, which is good for a laugh. You get to decide the pacing.

I write most days, and sometimes all day.  As the eyes strain with the load, it can be a relief to sit back and let Fred have a go at my mangled prose.  If you try it, you might be pleasantly surprised.  If you are not completely happy with the result, you will still know where your writing needs some work.