Guest post, Indie Author Month

Indie Author Month: Editing with Dyslexia – Samantha Nicklaus

Editing with Dyslexia by Samantha Nicklaus

I’ve known I’ve had a learning disability since I was about nineteen years old. The running joke in my house was that I was the best dyslexic reader in the world. I could read two books a week no problem, but my spelling was absolutely laughable. I couldn’t “sound out” words I hadn’t heard before. If I had to read in class, it was painful for everyone involved. But I didn’t have any classic signs of dyslexia. Words and letters never “floated around” for me, and when I was reading silently, I had no issues. To me, this wasn’t a learning disability, it was just how I worked.

When I started college, I took a psychology course over the summer. I quickly made friends with my hysterical professor, who was just as happy to joke around with me as he was to teach. One day, he handed me a test back and said, “You got an A, but if I graded you on your spelling, you would get an F.” I got a little embarrassed and admitted that spelling wasn’t my strong suit. He asked me a few questions about it, which ended with him writing a few words on the chalkboard and asking me to say them. These were big, long psychology words I had never heard before. He let me say each one of them, then nodded and said, “yeah, kid, you’re dyslexic.”

We talk about that for a little, with me admittedly claiming that I was fine. I told him about how much I read, and how easy it was for me to read. I never struggled in school. I liked reading. Then he walked me through what auditory dyslexia is.

The Reading Well gives a really good definition of auditory dyslexia; “The brains of auditory dyslexics have difficulty processing the basic sounds of language—an ability sometimes referred to as phonemic awareness. Specifically, multiple sounds may be fused as a singular sound. For example, the word ‘back’ will be heard as a single sound rather than something made up of the sounds /b/ – /ă/ -/ck/.”

They also list out some of the symptoms of auditory dyslexia, which are:

• Frequently misunderstand what others say
• Have difficulty hearing when any background noise is present
• Often have difficulty pronouncing Ls, Rs and Ths
• Frequently scramble multi-syllabic words (pasghetti instead of spaghetti)
• Difficulty following a sequence of instructions
• Weak auditory memory
• Weak comprehension of something just heard

Now, I don’t struggle with every symptom listed here. Instead of scrambling words, I tend to just make up syllables altogether. My brain sees a word as a full picture, not pieces, so I will often use the sounds I already know for words I don’t. Which is why when a friend told me he lived on “Guiana” street, the only way I can read that word is “Gupta”, because Gupta is a word I know how I say already.

This also makes editing my writing hard. First of all, I fall into the trap that most writers do, where I read what I meant to write, not what is actually written. Second of all, I have a hard time “seeing” full words. Looking at the word “through” and “thought”, they look exactly the same to me. If spell check doesn’t catch it, chances are I won’t either.

Now that I have written and edited three novellas, with a full novel in the works, I have picked up a few tricks I thought I would pass along. Everyone is different, so these might work better for some people than others, but they have been helpful to me.

1) Reading Backwards

This is actually a trick my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Hudson, taught me. Reading sentences backward makes it impossible to read what you meant to write, it makes you read what is actually written. This turns the sentence into gibberish, so if you wrote “definitely” when you meant “defiantly”, you are more likely to catch it. For example, here are a few lines from my current work in progress:

Hazel sat up, listening to the sounds of the night. Her mind wandered as she listened to frogs croak and picked at fresh bug bites. She thought of when this all started, the end of the world.

Now, if I read that backward, it becomes:

world the of end the started all this when of thought she. bites bugs fresh at picked and croak frogs to listened as wandered mind her. nights the of sounds the to listening up sat Hazel.

I’ll read it left to right first, then right to left. That way, if “world” is actually “word”, I’ll notice it. This can be time-consuming, so I don’t do it for every single line I write, but for words or mistakes I know I make (then vs. than, too vs to, world vs word, etc.) it is a good way to double check myself.

2) Grammarly

I don’t think Grammarly is a big secret, but I think it’s still new enough that it’s worth mentioning. Grammarly is just a more advanced grammar check than what programs like Microsoft Word provide. There is a free version, which I have used with almost no issue (read: I like commas way more than Grammarly thinks I should).
You simply copy and paste your text into Grammarly, and it will spit out mistakes for you. I like it mostly because, unlike Word or some other programs, it won’t just change mistakes. It will let you see the mistakes and choose to fix them.

Grammarly will catch mistakes like “too” and “to” or “through” and “thought”, which can be hard to notice sometimes, but it will also give you suggestions on how to correct, which is nice when I spell “necessary” as “necisary” and Word doesn’t know what word I meant to write.
3) Google Translate

This one seems weird at first, but let me explain. Google Translate has a great feature in which it will speak to you. You can copy and paste paragraphs and have a lovely robot read it out loud for you. For people like me, who have issues reading out loud, this is an easy way to catch mistakes.

In this blog post alone, I wrote: “I like it mostly because, unlike Word or something other programs, it won’t just change mistakes.” When I read it back, I didn’t notice I wrote “something” when I meant just “some.” But I had Google read it to me and was instantly able to hear the mistake. You just have to copy and paste, then hit a button, and it’ll go. This is something easy for me to do while I format a document, or tidy my desk, or even scroll through Twitter.

Of course, having someone else read your work is also helpful and hiring an editor can also do wonders. For those first few drafts though, I try not to embarrass myself too much. Hope some of the tips help!
About the Author:
Samantha Nicklaus is a New York born and Orlando based writer. She graduated from Florida State University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in History with a minor in Psychology. Prison 917 is her first self-published novella, which was quickly followed by Prison 456 and Prison 268, all of which can be found in a collection called The Prisons. She loves reading, writing, video games, Disney movies, and spends too much of her time watching Netflix.

You can find her at:

1 thought on “Indie Author Month: Editing with Dyslexia – Samantha Nicklaus”

  1. Hallo, Hallo, Ms Nicklaus,

    I found this post wicked fascinating as I’m also a dyslexic writer – I found I could compensate for most of the hurdles I have with written language by fusing my American & British expressions, phrases and words – as it limits the mistakes I can make – however, as you said, not every writer can self-edit and when your dyslexic it is doubly worse because how we see and view our own words isn’t exactly the same way the outside world might view them! This is why I also lean on copy editors to check the final copies of what I’m writing as I’m either going to do what you did — see similar words spelt different yet appear correctly and/or I’m simply not going to see the actual word I used as I had another one in mind – irregardless if it made it to the final draft. This happens on my blog, as well, though I do read and re-read it before it goes live when I don’t have the option to have a proofreader go over the post.

    We all have our unique methodologies of overcompensating for what ails us and dyslexia is like that for me as well. I’ve been overcompensating for it for most of my life which is why it hardly is noticeable anymore (to most people). Yet, its still there. I don’t mind though… I always felt it was a gift… a different perspective to have on the world and I do love to write… I might have initially fought to read (as it was rather difficult to learn) and I also struggled (still do) to hear the words as people said them aloud (so perhaps I have this other layer of the difficulty as well) — still, once I caught on to reading, I really went to towne! lol

    I love finding fellow dyslexic writers as more than not, I find a lot of us don’t write for whichever reason which I find quite sad. We all should do what we love even if we have something that hinders us.. there are tools, resources and people out there who can help us with our faults and/or our weaknesses and still have a viable path into publishing.

    Very well stated and loved reading this piece.


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