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How to Use Accessibility to Easily Level-Up Your Writing

Photo of "Rachel." You do not want to miss her call.

Did you ever edit a document for hours only to catch a typo right after you sent it? I imagine this was what happened when I read Do Headline Analyzers Actually Work or Are They Another Cheap Marketing Tool? (Avita, 2021)

Her article about headline analyzers is fantastic and you should read it. In fact, it influenced how I wrote the headline for this story.

It also has a typo.

Screenshot of text where "ShareThrough" is misspelled as "ShareThough."
(Avita, 2021) Screenshot by Author.

Mistakes like this are tough to catch. As you read this article, you will discover how you can use Text to Speech to find these mistakes. But that is only a bonus. Read on for other surprising benefits of Accessibility tools.


1. Improve your reputation with the visually impaired.

Imagine your best friend calls you up on the phone.

“Hi, Carl!” (You also need to imagine your name is Carl.) “There is this girl, Rachel to the power of my boss’s niece to the power of who I think you would really hit it off with. Are you available for a double-date to the power of uh, tomorrow night?”

Would that aggravate you, Carl? Would you even try to answer? Or would you hang up right away?

Yet that is how your books sound on Kindle for my iPad when you do not bound em-dashes with spaces. To be fair, this is a bug that Amazon fixed in later versions of the app. But many people do not religiously update their devices.

In particular, here are some other problems your writing will cause Text to Speech users:

  1. Non-word vocalizations and sound effects are mangled. For example, “This is mm-delicious” sounds like “This is em em delicious” on my Mac.
  2. Headings flow into the first sentence of the section without pausing. In this story, I use periods to force a pause after subheadings. However, this goes against the APA style guide.
  3. Your images’ alt text does not flow with the rest of your text. Alt text is text hidden behind images to describe them for vision-impaired readers. You want it to sound like it belongs in the surrounding copy. Bonus: If your alt-text sounds like it belongs, your image is probably in the right place.
Photo of a monkey. It does not belong here.
Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash.

The benefits of accessible copy.

Now, imagine vision-impaired readers reading your writing. Every time they read something you write, it flows smoothly from start to finish. Even though they are used to filtering out the noise, they notice your writing requires less work to understand. This bolsters your reputation as they associate your name with easy reading.

Do not underestimate the power of standing out as an accessible writer. Once a few people read a couple of things you publish, they will start talking. I have listened to enough texts that I can say: If your writing is always accessible, you will stand out.

It is free money lying on the table and all you have to do is pick it up.

Turn on the power of Text to Speech and discover the difference now.

You still have no idea how powerful Text to Speech can be. In a moment, I will give you even better reasons to use it. However, first you must turn it on because there are features in this article you will miss if you do not.

Now there are many different devices on the market with accessibility features. Some of them are more difficult to use than others. On my Mac, I open the Speech settings to enable “speak selected text.” Then I use the “Speak” key-combination when I want to hear it.

Screenshot of "Speech" accessibility settings on a Mac.
Screenshot by Author.

Follow these instructions.

Here is how you can find out how to turn on Text to Speech on your device. I tried several search sites but Bing returned the best search results.

Go to https://bing.com and type:

Turn on text to speech accessibility [device]

where “[device]” is the device you are using. For example, search for 

Turn on text to speech accessibility iPhone.

Next, follow the instructions you find. Then come back here and listen to this article from the beginning.

Incredible, isn’t it?


2. Text to Speech is part of a system that lights up embarrassing mistakes like a beacon.

“Policies plus procedures equals systems and sanity.” (David & Anderson, 2018). Systems are policies and procedures that, when followed, help you achieve goals.

For example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not want passengers flying out of their seats and slamming into other passengers. So, the FAA imposes strict seatbelt policies and procedures. One of those policies is that passengers must wear seatbelts during taxi. In fact, if you have flown, you have seen the flight attendants’ seatbelt demonstration procedure.

These procedures are routine, so they become habit. And, since they are habit, you would feel nervous if you were on a plane and the procedures were not followed.

How the Text to Speech procedure boosts your writing system.

In my writing system the refining process starts with reading from top to bottom to catch flow issues and typos. My procedure is to run Text to Speech on whatever I have written. This includes e-mails, articles, and even social media posts.

If I do not hear my document in Text to Speech, I do not feel comfortable clicking the “Submit” button.

Warning: Text to Speech will not find errors with words that sound the same such as “they’re”, “their”, and “there.” However, it will paint a bright target on other hard-to-spot mistakes.

For example:

  • Text to Speech will pronounce misspelled words like “ShareThough” strangely.
  • Awkward, gaps will highlight needless punctuation that grammar checkers do not catch.
  • Double double words will stand out like a sore thumb.

Also, Text to Speech will help you hear flow issues. These include:

  • Information gaps.
  • Missing transition words.
  • Sentences with too many prepositions.

Wow! Imagine if you knew you could do that before. It is like a video game cheat code.

Are you ready to turn on Text to Speech now? The two benefits above are enough reason to turn it on if you have not done so already. But, I also accidentally discovered an amazing side benefit.


3. You can hear whether your writing is “in tune” with your goals.

Imagine you sit down to write an R&B tune and accidentally score a violin concerto. Sure, that will probably not happen. However, like music, different types of writing have different sounds. For example, Hypnotic Writing (Vitale, 2007) and Think and Grow Rich (Hill, 2017) are both written in a hypnotic-persuasive style. Hearing them out loud helps you learn to recognize that writing style the same way you recognize music styles.

What happens if you listen to your hypnotic-persuasive piece with an accidental shift to a legal writing style? It will stick out like a violin concerto stanza in the middle of an R&B tune.

You still have to listen to enough writing to get a sense of the styles. But I remember the first time I listened to a piece I wrote after reading Hypnotic Writing. When I heard it, I instantly knew where I succeeded.

I knew because it sounded right.


Final thoughts.

Did you know that the camera in your phone is based on technology made by NASA for interplanetary space missions? However, you use that technology even though you are not going to Mars any time soon.

Device makers made Accessibility features for a specific purpose. But that does not mean you cannot use them creatively for your benefit. Check them out and try to find new ways to use them that no one else has thought of.

You can stop imagining your name is Carl now.


References:

Avitia, M. M. (2021, March 19). Do Headline Analyzers Actually Work or Are They Another Cheap Marketing Tool? Medium. https://bettermarketing.pub/do-headline-analyzers-actually-work-or-are-they-another-cheap-marketing-tool-c03729d3fab3

David, K., & Anderson, C. (2018, January 31). Systems Keep You Sane. Retrieved March 20, 2021, from https://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/un-billable-hour/2018/01/systems-keep-you-sane/

Hill, N. (2017). Think and grow rich. Hogue Press. (Affiliate)

Vitale, J. (2007). Hypnotic writing : how to seduce and persuade customers with only your words. John Wiley & Sons. (Affiliate)

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