An Editing Tool

Rarely can I read a book and not find a typographical error.  While that may be an overstatement, it is to say that despite every editor and publisher’s best intentions, the pesky typo is apt to exist in the best of manuscripts.  Spelling errors, grammatical errors, double words… I’ve seen them all, I’ve seen them in my books, and I’ve seen them in books by my favorite authors published by the most prestigious publishing houses.

The paperback edition of Gaspar was a personal embarrassment.  The Kindle edition has been revised and provides a far better reading experience.

As I moved through each draft of my recent novel The Faith of Job, I was alert for technical errors, but I’ve learned that you can read the same error over and over and not pick up on it.  “Paris in the the spring” comes immediately to mind.

During the editing of The Faith of Job, I discovered a new technique that I am convinced has served me and my manuscript well.  It is an editing process that I recommend to those who write long manuscripts with the intention to publish.

As I edit, I generally have the ‘Review’ toolbar opened on Microsoft Word, my writing program of choice since I stroked the first word of my first manuscript – The Olympian – two decades ago.

For years, I used the review features to check spelling and to reference the thesaurus.  Things still slip through and spellchecking a large document has become somewhat burdensome since Microsoft no longer allows a writer to highlight a single paragraph, for example, and spellcheck it alone.  Now, when a writer selects ‘Check Document,’ Word checks the entire document regardless of what might be ‘selected/highlighted.’  When dealing with hundreds of pages, it can be a chore.  In my case, I employ foreign words and vernacular words – runnin’, for example.  This further complicates the review.

To simplify a complex process, while editing The Faith of Job, I would select, copy and paste manageable amounts of words – generally not more than 300 – from the manuscript to a new, blank document.  I then spellchecked the 300 words.  If I found errors or made adjustments to the text, I would go back to the working draft and make necessary changes.

One morning as I began the editing process, I noticed the ‘Read Aloud’ icon on the ‘Review’ toolbar.  Odd that I never noticed it before.  Curious, I clicked it and a mechanical voice read the document to me.  Eureka!

Several things occurred to me as I listened to the narrator.  Despite the robotic voice, I was able to discern the ‘flow’ of each paragraph, each sentence and the words I used to construct it.  Many times, I rearranged the words, selected new words or other ways to express a thought.  As well, as I read along with the narrator, I was easily able to pick up ‘double words’ – as in ‘the the’ – and misspellings when the narrator stumbled over the pronunciation of misspelled words that resulted from my ignorance or from a typo.

Did I catch everything?  No guarantees, but before going to press with The Faith of Job, two independent readers scoured the advanced reading copy (ARC) and identified fewer than a dozen potential spelling or typo errors that have been corrected.

If you are an independent writer like I am and are looking for another way to eliminate errors from your manuscript, I recommend you ‘experiment’ with the ‘Read Aloud’ icon on your Word ‘Review’ toolbar.  I hope you will find it helpful and worth the effort.

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