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Just another software developer with opinions

Proofread Your Writing With A Screen Reader

Take advantage of the fact that we hear words differently from how we read them

Sep 10, 2019 ยท 2 min read

Today, I had a 1-on-1 with my supervisor. I was tasked to read (for the first time in history) a management-related book, as some sort of homework. And because of that, we drifted into the topic of writing. Obviously, I maintain a blog. So talking about writing is like home court advantage.

One topic we talked about was proofreading text. He talked about how he uses a cloud service to correct his text and make it look professional. I, on the other hand, am very suspicious about these services, especially when writing something personal.

However, I do have one trick to keep my blog articles neat without a spelling or grammar checker:

I use Firefox's reader mode to have it narrated back to me.

Humans are known to skim when reading as a form of optimization. That's how we can easily read jumbled words while, at the same time, miss that duplicate "the" in a sentence. This means it's very easy to miss typos and grammatical errors.

Now when we take that same text and have it narrated, we gain a different set of trade-offs. With speech, we're more tuned into subtle hints like pronunciation of words, tone of the speaker, pace of reading, and the slight pauses between words. This also means we could spot the gaps visual proofreading had missed.

This is how I find out if I should insert an additional comma, or if a sentence is too long. Typos often come out as mispronounced words, while complex words make the sentence sound weird.

Having a blog article like this pass through an auditory "proofreading", in addition to visual proofreading, is how I check my articles before publishing. It is not perfect, and a few typos squeak through occasionally. But having that additional layer is good to have.

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