Thursday, April 19

Does it Pass the Ear Test?

One of the best editing techniques available to any writer is the Ear Test. What is the Ear Test? Well, the Ear Test is when you read the words you have written out loud and determine if what you're hearing is right. As readers, we tend to do a lot of skimming. It inevitable, and is part of the mental process from which a person can "read" a word that is misspelled and infer what the word was actually supposed to say. As well, people who speed read don't read every single word in a book. No, they have trained their minds to skim through the book and infer what each sentence or paragraph is trying to convey. However, the Ear Test is the exact opposite of speed reading.

Every word must be said aloud. It is only through this method that you can find things that might otherwise be missed, such as dropped words or the presence of a run-on sentence. It's tiring work, and any author who does this needs to keep a glass of water nearby so they can keep things going. Lucky for Kindle users (I'm not sure if the other platforms offer this, so don't feel like I'm leaving you out intentionally), the device has a rudimentary feature that allows it to read the words back to you, albeit in a "computer voice". I can't stress how helpful this is. When we read something we're familiar with, our mind tends to "fill in the blanks", and it's very easy to miss something. With the Kindle reading it to you, it's easier to catch where these blanks exist.

Case in point, I'm currently going through the Ear Test with White Rock. It's the last bit that needs to be done before I upload it to Amazon next week. So far, I have found nearly two dozen instances of "dropped words" that I had missed through at least two rounds of "read editing". As well, it has allowed me to catch a small handful of SCUDs (Spell Check Ugly Ducklings), words that are technically written correctly, but which are the wrong words for the moment. For instance, I had a "string quarter" instead of a "string quartet".

The Ear Test is a vital part of an author's self-publishing repertoire. If you have a Kindle, there is no reason you can't use a program like Calibre to convert a PDF of your manuscript into a Kindle book, upload it to the Kindle, then have it read the manuscript back to you. Beyond that, a couple of days reading it to yourself out loud, with plenty of water on hand, can go a long way to resolving a lot of minor problems to the manuscript before you let it out into the world at large.

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