If you’re like me, self-editing never works flawlessly. I consistently miss things which are obvious to another person reading my work. Misspelled or out of context words, missing punctuation and missing words, are often overlooked because the brain automatically knows what should be there and has us see it that way. For those reasons, it’s a sound idea to become part of a critique group so others can catch the errors you aren’t able to spot.
However, I recently discovered two other ways to uncover mistakes in my writing, thanks to Chris Weller at Tech News. Both are a bit uncomfortable and unconventional, which is why they will likely work.
First, change the font. With conventional or attractive fonts such as Times New Roman or Calibri, the mind works effortlessly through a passage. But if you change a particularly challenging selection of your work to say, Comic Sans, a party-type font, it causes the mind to work harder to make sense of the information. Weller says, “Errors stand out more, because as the science of learning has discovered, the more difficult a task is, the more of our mental resources we’ll automatically put toward it.”
Second, make a robot read it aloud.
Feed the passage or selection into a text-to-speech generator. I experimented with Natural Reader and found it easy to work with. If you don’t like this free software, there are others on the internet to choose from. The strange robotic-type voice causes you to listen carefully, thus, catching errors you may have missed previously.
These two methods may be just the thing that helps you in the editing process, particularly if you have spent a lot of time on a piece. Working with fresh eyes, or in this case, a new tool, makes the obvious, well, obvious once again.