Proofreading on the Cheap
I am, it must be said, a cheap S.O.B. I will drive twenty miles to a station where gas is a penny less, I will squeeze a dollar until George Washington squeals, and I will wash old aluminum foil so I can reuse it. So, now that it’s time to proofread novel #1 (“Thin Spots,” soon to be languishing in obscurity on an online venue near you), I got some quotes, discovered people actually did want to charge money for the privilege of reading my work, and decided that perhaps I could do it myself.
Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a chance in Chernobyl I can just sit down and proofread nearly four hundred words of my own prose. I’m just too close to it and I’ve read it too much.
But I still want to get off cheaply if I can, so I started looking for tools.
Tool 1: Grammarly
To me, Grammarly looks like MS Word spell-and-grammar check on steroids. It looks though your document and suggests corrections based on standard usage. You can get the deluxe version, or whatever they call it, for about thirty bucks a month, so I sprang for that and was able to download a plug-in for MS Word. I used Grammarly to cull through the document for me and it was pretty okay. Not as good as a human proofreader, but pretty okay. It’s a computer program, so it can’t tell when, for example, you’re using a comma in a non-standard way in dialogue. On the other hand, in passages of exposition and such, Grammarly found a passel of legitimate comma foulups, some double words, a few spacing errors, and a smattering of other things. All in all, I’d have to say the book it more polished for having been through the Grammarly grinder.
Tool 2: NaturalReader
NaturalReader is a software program that reads your text out loud. It has a paid version that comes with various bells and whistles, but I’m using the freebie, and it works perfectly well for my needs. Said needs are simple. I need to hear somebody else read the book out loud to me so I can polish up the prose. I set the reading speed to “-3,” which slows the robot voice some, and then sit and listen with the Word doc on one side of my monitor and NaturalReader on the other. When the reader sounds out a phrase that clashes in my ear, or sets the little subconscious madman in my head to shouting better wording at me, I pause the reader and make the change in the document. I read the change back to myself, and if I’m pleased, I save the doc; if I am not pleased, I hit the Undo arrow.
Tool 3: Big Monitor
I recently invested in a twenty-three-inch monitor. It’s plenty wide and is the device that allows me to put Word on one side and NaturalReader on the other. It also allows me to have my beat sheet in view while I’m writing. You can get one of these for a little over a hundred bucks. If you can’t come up with a Benjamin all at once, save up for it. You’ll be glad you did.
Tool 4: A Real Proofreader
After all of this, I think I’m going to hire a real, live human proofreader after all. If they send me back the doc with few or no changes, that might mean I’ve hit on the magic proofreading sauce with Grammarly and NaturalReader. If I get the document back with lots of changes after using these tools, I’ll know next time to just send the thing straight to the human. It’ll hurt, because I’m so cheap, but I’ll do it.
A Final Word
Just so you know, Grammarly is not the only proofing program out there. You can read a fine summation of some popular tools at http://www.bloggertipstricks.com/online-proofreading-tools.html. NaturalReader also has competition; you can read about more reading robots at http://elearningindustry.com/14-free-text-to-speech-tools-educators-tts-teachers.
How do you get through the proofreading phase? Leave a comment and share your wisdom. Thanks!