Natural Reader is a website that allows students to upload files of text (like MS Word documents and PDFs) and have them read aloud. The software is unique that that it is offers multiple natural-sounding voices, and it offers the user a library to keep files without a subscription. You can adjust the text-size, text-spacing, and switch to dyslexia friendly font. Check it out!
Speech Notes is a free website that will type your text as you speak it. In the column to the right, it has basic instructions for inserting punctuation as you talk. From there, it’s easy to copy and paste your sentences into a word document with the “Copy to Clipboard” icon. You can also upload your document directly to a google drive, Word document, or email it to yourself using the icons to the right. It’s functionality also available in multiple languages. Check it out!
In addition, you can also upload text, and it will read it aloud to you. Just click “Text to Speech” at the top of the page:
by: Eamonn X. Wizeman
As writers we face many struggles. Every time we start typing, we may start asking questions like: How do I say what I mean? What adjective best describes an object? Is this argument strong enough? Does my analysis make sense? These questions sneak up on everyone, and you’re not alone when you ask them. We’d all prefer that we could just write without these problems facing us at every turn, and while we cannot completely avoid them, the remedy to writer’s block often comes before we even start to think about what we write.
Reading is a vital skill for everyone, a fact that people often forget. We cannot write without the ability to understand what we are writing about. However, this comes with its own problems. As one’s academic career progresses it may be common to find journal articles or textbooks with confusing language. Perhaps it is too wordy or there are words that you do not yet know. Whatever the problem may be, there are tools to help.
One of these tools is a website called Rewordify. Rewordify allows you to copy and paste a paragraph that you are having trouble comprehending and will break down words that are difficult to understand. For example, a sentence that uses the word “defamation” will be replaced with the phrase “saying lies that hurt someone else’s reputation.” This defines what defamation is but does so in a manner that fits it into the text. By breaking down bigger words, Rewordify can help a reader understand lengthy articles about topics that have a lot of vocabulary that they are not familiar with. Further, Rewordify will generate vocabulary quizzes for students looking to expand their horizons. This can help students improve their lexicon, which in turn improves their writing.
A tool like this can be useful for people, such as myself, who often find themselves re-reading the same paragraph several times. Reading comprehension is the first step in writing and is an integral part to the formation of ideas on any topic. If you cannot understand what an article, book, or study is about, Rewordify is a mechanism that can help you comprehend confusing text, which is a skill that is vital to pristine writing.
Check it out: Rewordify
Did you know there’s an entire field of literature about “writing spaces” and how they are linked to productivity and thought complexity? You may be limited to certain physical spaces as a student, but it’s still important you find the place where you feel comfortable and focused. Having a space conducive to writing is actually an essential part of the writing process. What sounds, sights, textures, and smells help you write?
Some students love the coffee shop vibe and the hustle and bustle of people moving in and out of small spaces with muted voices. Some people prefer the isolated corners of the fifth floor of the library where it’s silent and serious. Others like to write in the bed, in their dorm room, cocooned in blankets with their laptop on their knees.
It doesn’t matter where you write, so long as you know what spaces help you write.
Consider this: Where do you write? If you have writing anxiety, how can you make the space feel more comfortable and relaxing? Maybe you can wrap a blanket around your chair or hang up your favorite photos. If you have trouble focusing, maybe you should turn off the internet when you open up your word processor or maybe you should clear off your entire desk.
Sometimes there is no physical space that works. Maybe it’s difficult for you to focus everywhere. If that’s the case, then you need a mental space rather than a physical space.
Try using sound to help you immerse in a project. Some students like music. Others prefer white noise. The link below leads to a free site that generates different forms of background noise, and you can mix sounds to help you relax and focus. Maybe the sound of campfire and rain brings you back to your favorite childhood memory of a family camping trip, and the sounds can help you find that comfortable space you need to dive into a looming paper.
Listed below are the links to free online visual dictionaries. Visual dictionaries use images rather than blocks of text to define words. When you type in a word, the platform will pull up webs of related words and indicate how each word should be used (like as a noun, a verb, an adverb, etc.) based on the color of the lines. You can hover your mouse over any word and a quick, one-sentence definition pops-up. You can also move and manipulate the web by dragging words around. It’s a great way to make abstract concepts more concrete and visible. Kinesthetic learners might enjoy manipulating the webs. It’s also a good way to learn new words by seeing the words that are associated with the new word, and the webs do a great job at illustrating how the words are related.
Check it out!
We all have our favorite phrases and “go-to” words. I often find myself repeating these words multiple times in a single paragraph:
Thought Reversals: “however,” “although,”
Thought Extensions: “also”, “and it states”
Interpreting Statements: “so”, “this means that”
On my first draft, the repetition doesn’t matter, but when I start revising, I have to rethink each of those sentences so that I’m not redundant—I want to show that I can articulate my thoughts in a variety of ways to keep my reader engaged.
I’ve found that most college freshmen struggle with building their vocabulary and minimizing the usage of their “go-to” words and phrases. Your vocabulary will grow naturally as you read and become familiar with expressions in your discipline.
However, if the paper is due tomorrow, you may not have that sort of time. You need some tools to expedite that process.
One my favorite tools to eliminate redundancy is https://www.wordhippo.com/.
Here’s why . . .
- You can pull up synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples of usage, and the most common forms of usage by searching for a single keyword.
- The synonym search works well: it’s broken down by the possible definitions of the original word, and it generates several synonyms on each search.
- You can search for both words and phrases, though it works better with just words.
- Everything is hyperlinked! If you find a new word that’s a synonym, you can click on it to check the definition so that you’re using the new word correctly in your context.
- If you want to use a word that’s unfamiliar to you, you can click to have the word pronounced correctly for you.
- There’s a “See Also” section that further explains how to use the word in grammatically correct formations.
- Are you taking a poetry writing class? Or maybe you want to embellish a paper with some poetics? This site will generate rhymes for your words and phrases, too.
However, this website is ultimately just a machine pulling up prewritten data—keep that in mind. That means it doesn’t give you the connotations for the specific keyword (so if you are replacing a negatively charged word like “stuffy,” you may accidently insert a positively charged word like “cozy”. ) It also doesn’t say if the synonym has any slight differences from the original word on the landing page, and that could lead to using words that don’t express exactly what you mean. Last, it doesn’t work well with field-specific vocabulary.
Still, I’d recommend this resource for eliminating word-choice redundancy, and you’ll find that as you search for more and more words, you’ll acquire more and more words.
Academic writing typically requires longer, more complicated sentences because you have to interpret evidence or compare your ideas to those within another source. If longer sentences are not well-constructed, they can lack clarity or grammatical integrity. It’s also easy to fall into a pattern of passive voice when you are describing ideas opposed to actions.
For those reasons, I highly recommend the worksheet of sentence templates below:
- It will provide you with a variety of verbs to use other than “is”, “are,”, “was”, “were”, and “will be.”
- It will provide you with some conjunctions that indicate a transition or show relationships between ideas.
- It is organized by how you wish to combine or express your ideas.
- As a bonus, there’s additional transitions on the bottom!
This next worksheet also contains sentence templates and thought transitions, specifically to eliminate “I” from your writing, but some of the verbs are more passive. It’s still worth checking out!
This worksheet is useful because it has extended sentence templates for comparing topics in multiple sentences.
The Academic Word List below contains 570 words that are commonly used in academic texts. It also contains the various forms of each word so you can recognize different versions of the same word. I recommend that you review the list and try to use words from it as you write in order to expand your academic vocabulary.
by Mary-Kate Coniku
Whenever someone comes to me for help with flow, sentence structure, grammar, wording, or “making sure it sounds good”, I usually say the same two things. First, I say “just write the way you speak”. I have found that many of the people who come to me with concerns such as those above, are usually very eloquent speakers, they just struggle with putting things on paper. If you write the way you speak, more often than not your point will get across more clearly than if you are actively trying to sound like something they are not. When you have your ideas on paper, then consultants can help add some punctuation here and there to make it formal. The second thing I say is “read it aloud to yourself”. When you read your own writing in your head it will always make sense to you. No one knows what you are trying to say better than you. That is why consultants often read papers aloud, so that we can both hear when something may not sound quite right or be unclear, and to get another reader’s perspective.
Since it’s often easier to articulate your ideas verbally, it may be beneficial for you to use the “Dictate” feature in Microsoft Word. It’s available in my.scranton when you access Office 365. It will even let you insert punctuation by saying the specific name of the punctuation mark. This is a great option for pre-writing and drafting, and it can help eliminate some of your writing anxiety, since you can dictate your ideas while taking a walk or exercising at the gym or while doing any other activity you enjoy. If you’re a slow typer, this resource can also save you a significant amount of time. Check it out!
By Danielle DePasquale
After finally finishing a written assignment, one may be quick to submit their work immediately. Not having to look at that assignment ever again brings about a sense of great relief. However, receiving that assignment back covered in commentary about minute spelling and grammar errors dampens that sense of accomplishment. Even though writing the final sentence of a concluding paragraph may seem to signify the end of the writing process, proofreading your work is just as essential. Reviewing your work ensures that you’re submitting an assignment that is logically sound and addresses the task at hand. Hence, I highly recommend reading written assignments aloud, which allows you to actually hear what your writing sounds like. We are all human and mistakes happen when typing up assignments. This way, you can make any edits or adjustments needed to express your ideas clearly and concisely. If you find reading your own writing aloud tedious or don’t want to disturb your roommates, you can plug in some headphones and access the “Immersive Reader” function available in Microsoft Word; this tool has the computer read your paper back to you. It’s a great tool to check for typos, grammar errors, redundancy, and verbose phrasing. This is how you access it.
Check out this video demo here: Immersive Reader Video Demo.mp4
And proofreading your paper doesn’t have to happen right away. In fact, stepping away from your writing and revisiting with a clear head will enhance your ability to conduct a comprehensive and meaningful review of your work. In the future, I implore you to try either strategy before you submit your next assignment.