When writing, I prefer to let my drafts rest for a few days before editing. That way I can proofread them with fresh eyes. When I don’t have time for this resting period, I often miss obvious mistakes because my mind gets so caught up in what I’m trying to write that it subconsciously fills in gaps when I’m proofreading. I see what I expect to see, not what’s really on the page.
Recently, I have found an easy, effective solution for this problem. What I do is run the Festival speech synthesis system in text-to-speech mode from the command line (
festival —tts) and paste my writing into it. The computer then dictates to me exactly what I wrote, eliminating the opportunity for subconscious embellishments. I hear my writing for what it is, and the errors stand out.
If you find yourself proofreading on a tight schedule, give speech synthesis a try. It’s good stuff.
Update 2011-12-13: eSpeak is another popular choice of text-to-speech system that some people prefer to Festival. Give both a try and use whichever you like best.