Category Archive: writing skills

Mar 15 2013

Proofreading Tips: Kindle and Microsoft Word’s Text-to-Speech

proofreading

While proofreading one of my blog posts for correct spelling and grammar on my Kindle, I’ve found a helpful little tool. Kindle’s text-to-speech may be under used for the reading of e-books, however, I find the feature great at finding misspelled words and misplaced punctuation.

How exactly does it help?

When you upload your file to your Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD and turn on the text-to-speech feature, by tapping the screen once and pressing the “play” button the female voice will start reading from the top of the current page. I find that following along with the voice as she reads helps find the errors easier than reading it myself. Why is this? Because you’ve written the words so you already know what it is supposed to say. So when you reread the same scene, your eyes may sometimes scan over the misspelled word and your brain computes it as the word you intended instead.

For example, I only found that I had misspelled the word “through” several times in a manuscript after reading along with the text-to-speech feature because it was only when she said it aloud did I realize I had been spelling “though” and mistakenly reading it as “through” even when reading it aloud myself (which is a well-known tip in proofreading).

Reasons why it could improve your proofreading experience

Like I mentioned above, there are many tips out there already, especially the “read your text out loud” tip. It’s a great tip, but text-to-speech takes it a step further and has someone else read it to you without literally having someone else read it to you. Here’s other ways it can improve your experience:

  • She pronounces the words exactly how it’s written, so if it’s misspelled or not as emphasized as you’d like it to be you can highlight the word or text to fix later.
  • She uses inflections at the end of sentences ending with a question mark, pauses appropriately at commas, semicolons and periods, making it easier to measure your sentence flow.
  • There’s slight variations with quotes that gives her a little personality and helps with the story flow. (Now, I argue about this “fact” with my hubby because he claims not to hear a difference while I like to think he just doesn’t notice, which would be a good thing. However, when she reads multiple back-to-back quotes without tags, we both seem to keep up with which character is talking and when. It may vary for you.)
  • She uses a slight breathy tone when reading to make it sound like a human reading and not a robot or computer-generated … but not always. This also helps with the flow and clarity.
  • Whenever you find a mistake, simply hold your finger over the word and highlight or make a note so you can return to that specific spot later and fix your error.

Some possible downsides

  • Kindle Fire HD only has one text-to-speech personality. It features a U.S. English speaking female voice only.
  • You can choose how fast or slow you want her to read, standard is at 1x but ranges from 0.7x to 4x. This could be a positive but I find it difficult to hear her pronunciation of words clearly or the inflections with punctuation if it’s set at anything beyond 1.5x, and too slow for me at 0.7x. At 0.7x her breaths seem to drag and she sounds bored, as if she’s on the brink of yawning. Not good.
  • Making a note of your error stops the reading. When pressing play, reading begins from the beginning of the page no matter where you left off.

Uploading files to your Kindle

You can email your Kindle Word and PDF files, here’s how:

  1. Find out your Kindle email address by logging into your Amazon account.
  2. Scroll down to “Digital Content” under Digital Management and click “Manage your Kindle.” It may prompt you to sign in again.
  3. On the left under Your Kindle Account click “Manage Your Devices” and it will tell you to Send to Kindle Email Address and provide you with that email. Each Kindle you own will have a different email address.
  4. Simply attach your file(s) to an email and send it to that address. Your file should appear on your Kindle within minutes if not instantly.

Activating Text-to-Speech

Now that you opened your file on your Kindle here’s how to activate the text-to-speech feature:

  1. Tap the screen and press “Aa Settings.”
  2. Tap “On” located next to Text-to-Speech.
  3. A play button will be present at the bottom of the screen on the reading progress bar when the text-to-speech feature has been activated. Press play.
  4. You can change the speed on this progress bar by pressing the 1x button and toggling the different speeds. The 1x button is located at the bottom right while the progress bar is displayed.

Microsoft Word 2013 Text-to-Speech

I think it’s best to use Kindle’s Text-to-speech feature for novel-length manuscripts or lengthy documents. For proofreading shorter works like blog posts or short stories, for instance, I’d use Word’s text-to-speech feature. Here’s how for Microsoft Word 2013:

  1. Open a blank document
  2. Under the File tab go to Options
  3. Click on the Quick Access toolbar and choose “Popular Commands”
  4. Find “Speak” and add it to your customized toolbar
  5. Save. And find it at the top of your toolbar as a quote bubble with the play button
  6. Highlight the text you want it to read and press the quote bubble

Other info you should know:

  • Kindle Paperwhite does not have the text-to-speech feature
  • Earlier Kindle versions have options to toggle between a female and male voice
  • Some e-books and some files like PDF files do not have the text-to-speech feature
  • Microsoft Word’s feature is a male voice and sounds more computer generated compared to Kindle’s feature
  • For more tips on reading on Kindle fire HD and text-to-speech visit Amazon.com help center

 

I hope you find text-to-speech a helpful feature as I do. Have you used this feature to proofread your works? How was your experience? Leave a comment below and please subscribe to my blog for more tips on proofreading and more.

Apr 18 2012

Why Writing Well Consistently is Crucial for an Author

Part of an author’s job is to market themselves and their work. We keep up with our online social networks, updating Facebook and Twitter and engaging with other authors, editors, agents and readers. We blog, we’re interviewed and participate in discussions on online forums and blogs. Whether we’re writing books or writing Facebook updates, our number one job as a writer is to write and write well.

 

What makes good writing?

  • Proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, etc.
  • Ability to convey your message effectively

Why is it important to write well all the time?

Your writing is an asset. It’s what you are selling. It’s part of your brand. You’re a writer. You need to prove your skill. You’re expected to know how to write and write well.
Imagine a potential reader coming across an article you wrote online … and it’s littered with typos, emoticons and abbreviations one would use when text messaging. It may be difficult to see what type of writing you’re selling in your books.
It’s important to remember, while online everyone’s watching from potential readers to editors, agents and publishers. Show the world that you understand grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. Flaunt your writing skills everywhere you leave your writing, and be consistent.

 

When to stick with proper writing:

  • Writing and/or responding to emails
  • Writing, responding and/or commenting on blog posts
  • Article writing
  • Writing contests
  • Manuscript queries, partials and submissions
  • Book reviews or public reviews of any kind
  • Updating social network sites
  • Online interviews

 

 

When you can let it slide:

  • Twitter updates (due to the 140 character limit)
  • Text or instant messaging

 

Tips to make sure your writing is superb:

  • Always use spell check
  • Read it back to yourself out loud
  • Use Kindle or Microsoft Word’s text-to-speech feature
  • Have someone else look over it
  • Put it away for a couple days, look over it again, and then post publically
  • After publishing it (blog or online article) and you find a typo or mistake, correct it immediately

 

It helps to get into the habit of writing well if you do it regularly. Writing is your talent, your brand and your value. Don’t abuse it by not demonstrating your skill. Do you have any tips you’d like to add?

Feb 03 2012

What I’ve Learned that May Help You and Your Writing




Over the past few months I’ve been soaking in a lot of creative writing information as part of building and improving my writing skills. I recently challenged myself to write the best book I’ve ever written, and to attempt that personal feat required many hours of reading, analyzing, researching and (of course) writing.

I’ve had some epiphanies during the course of writing my post-apocalyptic novel (Before the Darkness) that I would like to share. These are things that I already knew about creative writing (I’m an author. Of course, I knew :/) but only really understood when reading these books or blogs.



What I’ve learned

Source



Metaphors and allegories can help strengthen a story and provide an engaging writing/reading experience.

Major plot twists or twist ending should tie into the overall mood and/or theme of the story for a greater emotional impact.

The sci-fi novella Wool by Hugh Howey

Incorporating universal human emotion into every facet of your writing builds strong characterization and helps the reader relate to the characters, conflicts and particular circumstances.

The erotic romance novel Destiny for Three by Lilly Hale

All reviews, be they positive or negative, ranting or raving, short or long, are still beneficial to the author. A reader may show interest in the very thing another reader finds unappealing in a book. It’s all subjective. At least the book provoked some kind of emotional response to push readers into discussing it.

Readers’ comments about Ranting authors over negative reviews from book reviewers

To easily find areas in your book that are telling instead of showing search for the word WAS. Using was in a sentence usually indicates the lack of effectively describing something or someone in your writing.

Noble Romance Blog

Write what you love and the rest will come to you.

Instead of focusing on getting to the end of your story, make small goals and complete those first.

It’s never too early to start talking about your work.

From various creative writing books, blogs and magazines:

These are just of few of the things I’ve grown to really understand over the past few months just by reading books, blogs, readers’ comments on blogs and magazine. Have you had an epiphany lately?