Improve your business writing with text-to-speech proofreading

Anybody involved with purchasing enterprise software will do a lot of business writing, e.g. writing software requirements. See how using text-to-speech can dramatically improve that writing.

Techniques for writing better software requirements

One way or another, proofreading your own writing is always a pain. Some years ago I experienced this pain first hand in a performance evaluation when I was “hauled over the coals” for errors and typos in my emails. Let me share a technique that I have found to be very effective for both proofreading and improving writing, one that really helped me write my 300 page book: Rethinking Enterprise Software Selection. My editor was even impressed with the quality of my first draft!

While grammar-checking tools are a huge help when it comes to catching writing mistakes, many authors still struggle with proofreading, especially with things like emails and blog articles. One technique is to leave the writing for a few days and then proofread it, but that only goes so far. Unfortunately, you still miss too much because you read what you think you wrote, not what you actually did write.

Software is taking over the world, so why not let it help by reading your prose aloud to you? Text-to-speech is a very powerful way to proofread because the computer is doing the reading and not you, the author. Instead of reading what you think you wrote, you hear what you actually did write, and mistakes, poor phrasings and the wrong order of ideas are suddenly very apparent.

Never having been formally trained, I’m a clumsy self-taught typist, forever typing “you” instead of “your,” and vice versa. I make the same mistake with “out” and “our”. Unfortunately, grammar checkers don’t always catch these kinds of errors, but when the computer reads your writing aloud, they jump out at you.

Text-to-speech will also help you improve the flow of ideas in your writing. Sometimes it is the order of words or phrases in a sentence, sometimes the order of sentences themselves and occasionally the order of paragraphs. In all cases when the computer reads your prose aloud, problems with the flow of the text are immediately apparent.

There are an optimum number of words to use when writing. Too few words and people don’t understand the message; too many words and the message gets diluted. When the computer reads your prose aloud, you quickly spot those places where you have used the wrong number of words. Sometimes I catch myself repeating the same idea in different words, often with clumsy prose. Text-to-speech helps identify these kinds of problems so they can be fixed.

If you are using Microsoft Word, customize the Quick Access toolbar to include “Speak.” I use Chrome as a browser and have installed “Read aloud” by lsdsoftware. There are several other similar products available from the Chrome Web store. I don’t use a Mac, but the same kind of tools should be available.

We all look down on somebody who makes mistakes in their emails. One typo may be forgiven, but two or three errors and the sender has all but destroyed their credibility. I have developed the habit of listening to my emails before sending them, and caught innumerable errors. Even those quick one-liner emails often contain errors or simply are not clear enough to elicit the desired action.

When writing blog articles, once an article is complete, I’ll use a grammar checker (Grammarly in my case) to clean up the text and then have the computer read the entire article to me. Text-to-speech proofreading helps polish that prose. It may take several passes to get it just right, but it works very well.

Give it a try. Let the computer do the proofreading work for you, and you will be amazed by how much it improves your writing. On the other hand, if you find writing good, unambiguous requirements is not a productive use of your organization’s time, click the [Contact Wayferry] button below. In addition to our extensive libraries of well written software and ERP requirements, Wayferry is an independent software selection consulting firm well practiced at using the reverse engineering technique to discover those requirements you don’t know you need. Those are the “unknown unknowns” that so often can derail software selection projects!