Friday, March 5, 2010

Read to Me, Alex

I let a virtual stranger read to me yesterday and it was awesome. I highly recommend it.

No, I didn’t accost someone off the street, not that there’s anyone lurking on the street in these parts at this time of year to accost anyway. I just mean I turned Alex on. !?!

Oh, that sounds bad, real bad, cause Alex is not hubby’s name.

What I really mean is I turned on the text-to-speech function on my computer and the voice I’ve selected as the least annoying is named Alex. I had my computer, as Alex, read to me.

I was having trouble being objective about a manuscript. I'm too used to the intonation and expression I want it to be read with. What I needed was someone to read it aloud to me. I’ve had writing group pals read my stuff back to me before, and I know that’s extremely useful feedback, but they weren't handy. Enter Alex. He worked beautifully.

I was amazed at the problems that suddenly stood out. I realized I’d written a couple sentences that were needlessly complicated. It even twigged me to a typo I’d not seen the previous fifty times (no word of a lie) I’d read one particular paragraph. Yes, sometimes Alex's pronunciation or intonation is wrong, and I don't think it would work for reading poetry meter, but on the whole I was impressed with how well he worked. Why not give it a try?

I use a Mac, but I know PCs have a similar function. Under my systems preferences panel there is a speech control option with a text-to-speech panel. Play with that for a bit to select a voice you like and the speed you'd like him or her to read in. Set the key combination you'll use to tell the computer to read aloud any text you've highlighted. Now go highlight some text, perform your magic key combination, and give it a listen.

Of course, if you just want to hear something read back in the voice of trinoids, zarvox, or a pipe organ, who am I to say anything?

4 comments:

Karrie Zylstra-Myton said...

What a great idea! I just got through with my last revision and sent it on but I'll be sure to do that next time (presuming I can figure out how).

Lizann Flatt said...

Thanks, and I hope it works out for you as well as it did for me, Karrie!

Catherine Austen said...

Very cool, Lizann. I'm going to find an Alex of my own. (And congratulations on the two new books!)

Lizann Flatt said...

Thanks, Catherine. Here's hoping your very own "Alex" works out too. :>