Tuesday, 24 November 2015

2 Sure-Fire Methods for Finding Errors in Your Work - #TipsTuesdays 14

Now we all know that authors need help editing and we should always get someone else to look over our work before it is published, however, it's always good to get rid of as many errors as we can ourselves first, and of course blog posts are often a solitary effort. Today I want to pass on two methods I use all the time to help me find errors in my writing. I hope they are as useful to you are they are to me. Tips Tuesdays 14

2 Sure-Fire Methods for Finding Errors in Your Work

I'm sure most of us have seen this somewhere on the internet:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
According to a researcher at Cambridge University, it doesn't matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole.
Wittegen Press
$3.29 | £2.19
Amazon | Other
Now according to actually substantiated research, there are different rearrangements that are more difficult to read than others, but it does illustrate how good the brain is at comprehending what isn't necessarily right. Sometimes we do this when we don't want to as well, like when we're looking for errors - I know I do all the time. We know what it's supposed to be so we don't see it. The methods below help curb this and find other common errors in writing.

These methods are spoken about in many place and by many authors, so I know many of us share the same views, hence I am sharing them again in hopes they will help someone who comes across them as I did in my early days.

Change the Format of What We are Reading

It is very likely we will have read our work several times as we go along and with familiarity comes word blindness and other issues. If we change the layout of what we are reading, we are forcing our brains to reassess what we are seeing. Hence we read it as new, not as what we expect to see.

It is very simple to do this and here are several ways it can be done:
  • In the word processor change the page layout from landscape to portrait or change the page size to A5 (or simply another page size depending on region).
  • If creating an eBook, read the book on an eBook reading device, making notes of any errors for correction in the master document
  • If creating a blog post, read it in preview as well as in the editor (I found six errors at least in this post when I did this today - let's hope I didn't miss any :))
  • Print out a work and go at it with a red pen
All of the above give our eyes a reason to slow down and our brains to comprehend what we are reading. Sometimes I cannot believe the errors I have missed when I use this method.

It is also by far the quickest method of the two.

The Read Aloud Method

This method has one very useful feature that the previous one does not; it allows us to find awkward phrasing as well as all the other errors. Now phrasing is a subjective thing anyway, but when reading silently some things feel okay that when we read out loud are actually not quite what we were going for.

When we read aloud we also employ a large number of faculties which are not necessarily used as greatly when we read inside out heads. This leads to many advantages over simply reading silently. The three most useful for the task of finding errors are the following:
  • Sharpening of Focus
    Because we are using our voices and listening at the same time, we help ourselves focus, blocking out distractions. All our focus is on the task and sounds and odd thoughts are much less likely to jump in and cause issues.
  • Greater Word Comprehension
    We often learn better when we hear things out loud as well as reading them internally. If you are comprehending the words more clearly you are less likely to miss the typos or the completely wrong words we all use accidentally some times.
  • Reading Aloud Slows Us Down
    Reading aloud simply takes longer because our external voice is often a lot slower than our internal voice, especially if we have trained ourselves to speed read. Reading slower prevents eye skips and pattern recognition that can often cause us not to see errors.
Wittegen Press
$3.98 | £2.98
Amazon | Other
This method takes time - reading aloud is more than a little bit slower than reading inside our heads. It takes days to read a full novel this way, but I cannot stress how useful it can be. Some software like yWriter  (and in some cases Word) even offers a read out loud option in the program itself so we can listen to it as well as reading it out loud ourselves. A machine is never going to have the intonation of a human being, but it will highlight typos.

So there you have it, two incredibly useful methods to help us find those pesky little errors which like to trip us up.

Two sets of eyes are always better than one, so an editor or beta reader are often incredibly useful, but when you only have the one set, like me today for this blog post, these techniques can help.

All our brains work differently and some people see errors really easily, while others of us have to try a lot harder to find them.  This is why some of us are professional editors and some of us aren't :). I definitely am not, which is why I find the two methods above so useful. I hope they serve you as well as they serve me.

Do you have any other methods that you find really useful for spotting errors? I would love to hear about them in the comments if you do.

Many thanks for visiting today.

Authors - win a month's stay in a castle for NaNoWriMo 2016 via Derek Murphy (book designer and author).

(occasionally you see a page not found, but wait a second and it will redirect you to the right place - I think sometimes the server is overloaded)

As ever I am always on the look out for Bloggers, Book Artists and Authors to host for Writerly Wednesdays. If you have in you any post about writing/books (including blog tours and books post - although I do ask the post have more than just an advert for the book, even if it's just a paragraph or two :)), I would love to host you.


  1. To go along with the "Read Aloud" method, something really cool I've only just discovered (and I can't believe I didn't realize it sooner) is text-to-speech software. It's so helpful to have someone else read stuff back to you, even if it's a clumsy computerized voice, because it will project in cold efficiency all kinds of things your brain will automatically gloss over.

    Most operating systems have some kind of TTS built in; it's an accessibility feature for the learning- or visually-impaired, but you can also get a variety of free/cheap apps and programs that do the same thing. Many even come with all kinds of customized voices in different accents and dialects. I'm currently using Voice Dream for iPhone. You can get a voice pack that sounds like the Queen of England!

    1. Now I am imagining the Queen reading a sex scene from one of my books and that is just wrong! :)

      yWriter has a read aloud option, which I have used a little, and apparently Word is supposed to be able to do the same thing, but not my version of Word. Probably don't have the right things enabled or something.

  2. I've heard both those recommendations for finding errors. I've never tried out the changing the font one though, but I know when I print out the WIP, I do spot errors so I think reading it in other formats works well too.

    1. I tend to turn my books A5 when I do editing read throughs - somehow, that's what get's my brain to stop skipping :) I suspect different changes work better for different people. I don't tend to use printing out, simply because I am loathe to use that much paper :).


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