Hearing Your Words

Like most fellow writers and bloggers, I create my articles and entries in word processing software external to WordPress. Some of this is in order to take advantage of some of the helpful tools and utilities the more advanced software provides. Some is because it is just a tried and true, long-standing relationship with a software program I have always used and know well. I wrestle sometimes with the font type and size that will cut and paste into WordPress with ease. But with a little manipulation, I always seem to reach an acceptable and readable version. This is true, at least, for everything except poetry.

For poetry, I turn to good old fashion pen and paper, at least in the creative phase. The ability to cross out words and replace them, without ever losing the original word or thought you were trying to impart, is very helpful to me. I can change and manipulate the words without losing anything. Arrows moving whole sections of words. Individual lines or thoughts being set aside until I can find the proper door for them to enter through. Sometimes, after many changes and iterations, I find my way back to the original phrase or word I had originally composed. Had I deleted it from a page in the software, I may never be able to retrieve it or remember the word. It allows me to compose, without losing the stream of consciousness that spews forth from the topic at hand. It lets me quickly scribble all the things I want to express, and then allows me the easy manipulation that leads to how I want to best express them.

With other writing, pen and paper are merely the storage area for random ideas, tidbits of phrases, and important points not to be missed. The words represent certain ideas or thoughts, but require no structure, context, or completeness. Just chaotic notes to be referred to when I sit to write the article in my word processing software. Writing in prose or paragraph, I can easily remove, append, or add on the fly. Conversational writing is not the work that verse and poetry require. It just comes more naturally. And, when word choice does not need to mesh with rhyme scheme, it too becomes much easier.

As I assume it is for most writers, I read and reread my words a million times, regardless of what I am writing. Constantly looking for improvement. Better clarity or conciseness. Stronger or more evocative word choices. Even things written long ago and considered well-finished, are given at least a cursory review prior to publishing. An to avoid the pitfall of not publishing, because nothing is ever perfect or good enough, my review is for grammatical, syntax, and spelling errors only, not content or context. I would rather publish something that could have been better, then publish nothing because perfection eludes me.

This constant review of our writing makes us sometimes blind to obvious errors, because the human mind is miraculous in its ability to correct the written word when we are reading. Especially, if the reader (in this case the author) already has a good concept of the thought trying to be conveyed. In fact, our minds do this a great deal, but it is so good at it we rarely notice.

That is why I was taught to proofread for spelling errors by reading the text backwards. When your mind is not racing to the conclusion of a sentence or thought, lightly glossing over the words to get to the fruit of their meaning, you are more apt to notice spelling errors. Of course, my software now does the bulk of that work for me. In order to proofread for syntax, grammar, or context, you must read the text normally. And this is where we miss the most. I mean, if you have been blogging for any amount of time and haven’t had to return and edit an entry you already posted, then you are a god among men. It happens to all of us.

I use all these methods and more to review, proof, and edit my content. And, I still make errors. I guess that is inevitable. But recently, while using my word processing program to finish an article, I noticed a function I had never used before. I clicked on it by accident, which is how I find most things anymore. Probably because I did not see it as a tool for writing or reviewing, it never garnered my interest. I almost wondered why it was there at all. The software had the ability to read my text to me aloud.

When I clicked on it by accident, I was finalizing a lengthy article. When the voice started to come from my speakers, I was startled at first. Then my surprise waned, and I sat listening to someone else read my words back to me. It was weird. So other worldly weird. Even now, I struggle with the words to explain that sensation. I sat, closed my eyes, and let my words and thoughts wash over my mind. I was not reviewing, polishing, or editing. Just listening. It sounded just like it sounded in my head when I was working so hard to put it in writing. It was a restorative and self-realizing adventure. Though I wrote, read, reviewed, and edited this particular piece of writing to death, suddenly the words and phrases sounded new to my ears and my mind. I did also hear some errors I had not noticed in all the reading and reviewing. I corrected those. Then listened again.

I am not touting this function as the best way to review or edit your writing. I still use all the other tools common to our art. And, I still read my writing over and over and over. But if you use a program that has this function and you have never used it, give it a try. I think you will be just as amazed as I was when I heard my words in someone else’s voice. The unique perspective of hearing my work read aloud was well worth the accidental click it took to get there.

3 Responses to “Hearing Your Words”
  1. I’ve seen the option to “read aloud” and have tended to ignore it. I use Grammarly, which helps find grammatical errors. Now, I’m going to have to try this too! What a great little tool for simple errors – like dropping the “d” off the word “and” because “an” is an acceptable word. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. …where is that button?

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  1. […] I posted an entry about hearing my own words read back to me by my word processing software (“Hearing Your Words“). My entry tried to describe the surreal feeling that was. I had come to recognize that […]

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