Monday, July 4, 2022

Listening as a Proofreading Tool for Writers

by Kristen Hogrefe Parnell @KHogrefeParnell

Our mothers told us that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. But have we ever considered the value that listening can offer for proofreading our manuscripts?

That’s right, proofreading. Although we’re not strangers to audio books and immersive reading, I’d like to share a personal story that showed me the benefit of incorporating listening as a proofreading activity.

Blue Ridge Road Trip
Last month, my husband and I drove from Florida to Asheville for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. While I was there, my editor emailed my proofreading copy of my upcoming novel. I thanked her for sending it and figured I would print it out and start reviewing it when I returned home.

But as we pulled away from the beautiful Ridgecrest Conference Center and started the journey home, I thought to myself: I have almost ten hours in this car. Surely, I can get started on my manuscript.

The thought of reading it on my laptop made my eyes water, so I did a Google search for ways to listen to Word documents. Turns out, I didn’t need to look beyond Microsoft Word.

Windows 10 Read-Aloud Feature

As long as you have Windows 10 or newer, you can take advantage of this tool. 
  1. On your Quick Access Toolbar, select the dropdown for more options to “Customize Quick Access Toolbar.”
  2. Choose “More commands.”
  3. In the “Choose commands from” dropdown, select “All commands.”
  4. Find the “Speech” command and “Add” it. Choose OK.
  5. You should now see a new symbol on the Quick Access Toolbar that looks like an A with sound waves. When you click on it, you can choose “Read aloud,” and a computer narrator will begin reading wherever your cursor is on your page. 

Not only did this lovely tool save my eyes, but I discovered that listening to my manuscript reveals errors that even the sharpest eye will overlook.

Mistakes Caught by Listening

For example’s sake and full transparency that even this English teacher can skim over errors, I want to share some types of mistakes that listening to my manuscript helped me catch.
  • Words you’re misspelling that Word isn’t flagging: My example is driveway, which I was consistently spelling driveawayfor whatever reason. I immediately caught the mistake when the speech tool pronounced drive-a-way.
  • The wrong character’s name: It’s easy to type one character’s name when we mean another, and when we skim over text, our brains might read the one we intended. When we hear the wrong name though, we realize the sentence doesn’t make sense.
  • Overused words: We might not notice that we used the word “tight” in the previous sentence unless we hear the word “tight” twice within a few lines. Our ears catch the redundancy.
  • Too much internal monologue: One scene needed more action and less time spent inside my character’s head. Only when I “heard” the passage did I realize how much the internal monologue was slowing that scene’s pacing and that I needed to cut out a large portion.
  • Typos that spell check misses: For example, “now” instead of “know.”
  • Missing words: Our brains sometimes insert missing words, because we know how the line should read, but listening to a line with a missing word reveals the problem.

Word’s Speech command certainly isn’t the only way to “listen” to your manuscript before it goes to print, but its accessibility made it perfect for my road trip. 

Have you ever used a listening tool to help you proofread your manuscript? If not, I challenge you to try one.


Kristen Hogrefe Parnell writes suspenseful fiction from a faith perspective for teens and adults. Her own suspense story involved waiting on God into her thirties to meet her husband, and she desires to keep embracing God’s plan for her life when it’s not what she expects. She also teaches English online and is an inspirational speaker for schools, churches, and podcasts. Her young adult dystopian novels, The Revisionary and The Reactionary, both won the Selah for speculative fiction, and her first romantic suspense novel with Mountain Brook Ink releases this December. Kristen and her husband live in Florida and are excited to welcome their first baby in August. Connect with her at

Featured Image: Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash


  1. Excellent advice, Kristen! I discovered Word's text-to-speech when I was proofing my second novel, and found several errors I never would have noticed otherwise.

    1. Thank you! Yes, it's such a helpful tool for finding mistakes we would otherwise miss.

  2. This is such a helpful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Reading aloud is so important for me to catch my pet words - the ones I use too often.

    1. Yes! Reading aloud is another helpful practice for catching mistakes or our pet words. Thanks for sharing.

  4. OMG. Thank you so much. I had no idea you could listen. Much better than reading aloud to myself.

  5. I so enjoyed your post, Kirsten. While I have not yet used a listening tool for proofreading, you can be sure I will from now on. You've inspired me! Thank you!