‘Speak’ and ye shall find ghost words, typos and other errors

Frog Gate to River Walk Studio City

In the romance novel ‘L.A. Ladies’ Robin goes for walks along the L.A. River. This photo is of the frog gate leading to one path along the river.

I spent all day yesterday listening to the latest draft of my novel, ‘L.A. Ladies’.  That’s right, I listened to it using a nifty feature in Word that I didn’t previously know existed.  The feature is called ‘Speak’ and I decided to use it to see if I could find any ‘ghost words’ in my manuscript.  ‘Ghost words’ are those little leftover words that accidentally end up in revised copy.  When an author re-reads the revised section, her eyes slide right over the ghost words because, after all, she ‘knows’ what the passage says.  The eyes and brain play tricks.

In one writers’ group online a fellow author suggested I read my manuscript aloud, but I wasn’t at all confident that the eye-brain trick wouldn’t happen again.

Instead I decided to use ‘Speak’ and sat here at my computer following the words with my eyes while Microsoft Anna (the voice of Speak and it’s a semi-mechanical sounding voice!) read to me.  Much to my horror, I discovered a ghost word in the first chapter. Somehow the word ‘handed’ had been left in a sentence right beside ‘handing’. I quickly deleted ‘handed’ and kept on listening to Anna. Two other ‘ghost words’ showed up later in the novel and in one other instance I discovered that I’d written ‘on’ instead of ‘of’.  All were fixed instantly. What is also important to note is that these four tiny errors in my manuscript were all properly spelled so they would have gone right through the Kindle Spell-Check and not shown up as mistakes.

Another discovery I made while listening was that in an early meeting between Robin, the main character, and one of her love interests, she sounded bitchy instead of surprised. So I re-wrote that exchange, too. Then checked it again with Speak to make sure there were no ghost words in my revision!

Okay.  If you’re interested in using Speak — and I highly recommend this approach–search Google for text-to-speech in Word and follow the steps to activate it. It’s really easy and can save you from serious embarrassment.

Later: When I posted about this topic on my FB wwriter’s group I learned from other writers there is also a text-to-speech function in Adobe’s pdf reader as well as several free programs available online. I might try them to see if those other voices are more pleasant than Anna’s.

Oh, one last thing.  Anna sometimes reads ‘is.’ at the end of a sentence as ‘island’. At other times she read ‘no.’ as ‘number’.  She apparently ‘thinks’ they are abbreviations.