Friday, May 30, 2014

Surprise: the Kindle can be an important editing tool

I did more editing on my work-in-progress, Do as I Say, Not as I Did,  on the train to and from Book Expo America in Manhattan yesterday. I was amazed (and horrified) at how many errors I found when reading the book on my Kindle Fire that I missed on a giant 27-inch monitor.

In the past I have urged writers to check their work on a PC screen in Word, on a PC screen in PDF and on paper -- because each viewing environment will reveal different mistakes. Now I'll add a Kindle to the toolkit.

I'm not sure why this is so. The typographical characters just look different so I notice different things. It may have to do with contrast between type and background, or maybe smoothness of the letter forms. I'm not sure, but I know the phenomenon is real.

This book is about my stupid mistakes and I found lots of stupid mistakes in the book. It figures. 

The official "pub date" is Sunday, 6/1, so I'll have a busy weekend. It's turning out to be a really good book (he said immodestly). I wrote 51,814 words in 17 days. That's a lot of words per day. It will initially be an ebook. If it was a paperback it would have about 212 pages.


  1. Kindle, schmindle. As long as you're doing your proofreading with your eyeballs alone, you're going to be prone to missing the same mistakes over and over. Your mind will convert what's on the page into what you "know" is there. I constantly preach that the way to proofread your own work is with text-to-speech software, specifically software that will highlight each word as it's spoken. On the Mac there's the general-purpose text editor Tex-Edit Plus, and on Windows there are the TTS utilities WordTalk and NaturalReader.

    Do this and you'll not only catch all of your slip-of-the-keyboard errors, you'll probably also get ideas on how to improve the flow of your writing, etc. (Which of course will mean that you need to do some rewriting, which will require another round of proofreading...)

    1. Karl -- I agree that either a robot or human reader can be a big help in catching errors and in improving word flow, but verbalization does not replace eyeballing multiple textual formats and can be annoying.

      I've experimented with TTS for long time, starting with Dragon at least ten years ago. Last week I played with MS's Narrator. I find the robotic cadence disconcerting and punctuation is often handled poorly. For example, I don't want to hear "backslash" and the robot doesn't know to pause at an em dash.