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Monday, September 22, 2014

Spell Me a Story



There’s some Facebook meme that’s gone around featuring a paragraph in which the spelling of every word is shuffled and folks are challenged to read it anyway.  From the comments I’ve seen, it appears most people understand it, piece of cake.  The exercise demonstrates how the human brain doesn’t read letter by letter, but word by familiar word.  As a fast reader, I assume that's how I do it, and it's no help at all when I’m trying to catch my own terrible typos.


I spent the last week reading the latest draft of my current work in progress out loud.  If you are a regular reader of Middle Passages you surely probably most likely absolutely may have noted that typing, spelling and punctuation are not my strong suits. I can’t tell you how many times I go back and read a post I wrote then edited, edited, edited and published, only to discover typos.  Argh.  Drives me crazy, because I know you see them, too.  So, anyway, I am aware of my challenges in this regard and trust me.  Over the course of an eighty-three-thousand word draft, there’s a lot of proofreading to do.


Since we don’t speak as fast as our eyes devour a page, reading out loud forces us to slow down, to concentrate on each word, which is when the booboos percolate up.  When I read out loud, I find where I’ve used the wrong tense, forgot a word, or plopped in the wrong spelling.   This week, it also helped me to identify spots where the story is weak, where I need some interior thoughts to help to spell out what is happening in my characters' brains. So I add a sentence here and there. That means more proofing. Ugh.


I want so much to be done.  But I’m not there yet.  Soon though.   I say that a lot.  It’s the only way I can sooth my typo-ridden punctuation-challenged awful spelling will-I-ever-finish-with-this soul. 

What tricks do you use to edit your own manuscript?

12 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Reading out loud is one of the best ways to catch mistakes. And really sucky dialogue. I also print out my manuscripts as I miss stuff when it's on the screen.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I find I must print out my work so I can see it in print. I just skip over things when I read it on the computer.

Margo Kelly said...

Reading out loud is an excellent revision tool.

Bish Denham said...

Reading out loud is definitely one way of catching mistakes. So is letting something sit for a while.

Delores said...

reading out loud is a must and going back after a few days with fresh eyes always helps.

Daisy said...

I'm not particularly fond of editing either, because it is so easy to miss something. Reading aloud helps me too.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Like the other commenters said, mistakes are easier found on a printed version or when reread the next day. I think that after we have been staring at a screen for awhile, we are tired and don't see things as they are, but as we assume they are.

I just reread and fixed a blog I wrote over two years ago. It did not matter as no one would read it anymore, but I felt so much better making it right.

mshatch said...

Reading out loud is a great trick, not only for all the things you mentioned, but I also think it helps me perfect the rhythm of my sentences.

Robin said...

What I have discovered through this revising business is that changes create typos. Every time you insert or delete, another typo opportunity presents itself. I cannot tell you many "he said" or "she said" tags I've deleted only to discover a period hanging out there after the quotation. Ugggh. It is the stupid stuff that drives me nuts. Nuttier. Ah well.

Jan Morrison said...

I read everything out loud to find out what I've written. I can so easily make the written word be something I want - when it might not be! Thanks for this and as a comma aphasic I totally do not notice your mistakes.

Stephanie Bird said...

Cool thought! I'm going to try reading my work out loud more often and not just when workshopping because it's required. I do that thing, shifting tenses too. I really appreciate your post and take it as a learning lesson. Glad I stopped by to absorb some of your wisdom.

Pixel Peeper said...

In my last two jobs, a good portion of my duties was to proofread reports. I've always thought that it's extremely difficult to proofread your own stuff. It makes most sense to have someone else look it over.

But if that's not possible, I do think that the idea of reading it out loud is a great second option.