The Best New Tool for Fixing Your Research Reports
Quite by accident, I just discovered the best new tool for reading and fixing research reports: the Read-Aloud function in Microsoft Office programs. It helps spot typos, missing or extra words, misspellings, grammatical mistakes and awkward phrases — everything I need to fix my writing before finalizing and sharing written text about research and surveys with others.
Try it right now. Copy and paste the paragraph above into a Word document. Select (highlight) the text. Then go to the Review tab, and click the Read Aloud button.
The voice is somewhat robotic, but not bad. It’s pacing is good, with appropriate pauses for commas and periods, and it even shortens the silence between adjectives and nouns when appropriate.
I am finding this to be a magical tool, and not because I am amazed by the technology of narrating text. Rather, I am amazed at how useful this is when I use it. I can hear what my sentences sound like in a voice other than the silent voice I hear in my head. If it sounds clunky and convoluted, then it’s time to revise. And for proofreading, suddenly I “hear” words that are missing, which my brain unconsciously fills in when I am simply reading.
The tool capitalizes on two techniques for effective writing I learned in middle school, and then again in college and graduate school:
- When proofreading, read backwards to disrupt the way your brain fills in missing words and skips over mistakes. That is, read your documents and paragraphs one sentence at a time starting with the last sentence, then the penultimate sentence, and so on working your way to the beginning. It forces you to focus more deliberately on each word making it easier to spot mistakes.
- When reviewing for clarity and editing, read aloud to hear what has been written. It helps ensure that your writing is direct and that it has “voice,” which is an essential quality of excellent writing. For proofing, reading aloud is also another way to disrupt how your brain fills in and skips over mistakes.
You can choose from among three different voices, and adjust the speed of narration as well.
Given so much turgid prose we suffer through every day in the marketing and market research worlds, perhaps we all should be learning about, and practicing, how to write more effectively. Read Aloud is one excellent tool that will get you going!
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.
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