16 Reasons to Read your Words Aloud.

pixabay free image - ClkerFreeVectorImages

pixabay free image – ClkerFreeVectorImages

Most writers have learned the importance of reading their words aloud. It’s advice I heeded early on and am happy to pass along.

Writing works on myriad levels. On one level, it’s the mechanical delivery of a story, the typing of words according to rules. It’s fingers on keyboards, reams of paper and editing drafts. Beneath the surface, writing is meaning-making through narrative, tapping universal themes and archetypes that existed before man first etched his carvings into cave walls.

As an art form, writing has the ability to transport a reader into another world. We paint with words on the mind’s canvas, compose the music of language, stir smells, tastes, and tactile impressions. The goal is emotional immersion, being present in the experience.

I have an irksome sensitivity to the sounds of words, the rhythm of phrases and sentences. When I search for the right word, it’s not just the meaning I’m chasing. I’m looking for the right number of syllables, the sharpness or softness of the consonants. As I nestle a word into a sentence, I listen for the subtlety of alliteration, a rhythm in the flow of the words that form phrases, phrases into paragraphs.

A story has a natural cadence that arises from sentence structure, word choice, and the balance of narrative, dialog, and exposition. By reading our stories aloud, we’re able to experience that cadence the way our readers do. As part of an editing process, hearing the sounds of our words polishes our work. It’s a positive step not only for individual careers but for the indie community as a whole.

pixabay free image - ClkerFreeVectorImages

pixabay free image – ClkerFreeVectorImages

Why it works:

  • Our wondrous human brains expertly and unconsciously correct and smooth over our mistakes.
  • On top of that, we are familiar with our work – we’ve written it, edited it, read it, and lived it. We no longer need to read each word it to read the sentences.
  • Reading aloud forces our brains to focus. The goal is to go slow, read each word, and hear the writing “fresh.”

Reading aloud is one of the most powerful proofreading techniques around, and reading from a printed copy is even better. It further tricks the brain by changing up the visual (as well as providing room for notes).

So what are all these amazing benefits?

1) Typos, missing and misplaced words: Since our brains automatically correct our mistakes, these small errors can be hard to see. Note that if you find yourself verbally stumbling or reading a sentence twice, there is probably something tripping you up.

2) Punctuation:  Like typos, these errors are easier to catch (especially if you read a printed copy).

3) Repeat words: (Example) The drizzle descended with the clouds. They waited inside the shelter for the drizzle to cease.

4) Repeat gestures: Everyone’s nodding, smiling, or raising an eyebrow.

5) Repeated rhythms in sentence structure: (Example) Biting her nails, she strode to the window. Glancing outside, she saw the carriage approach.

6) Starting sentences the same way: (Example) He fell asleep to the music. He dreamed of her swollen face and the blood in her hair. He reached for her wrist, and he felt no pulse.

7) Stacked prepositional phrases: (Example) He stood in the garage under the fan by the car in his underwear.

pixabay free images - OpenClipartVectors

pixabay free images – OpenClipartVectors

8) Repeated information: Telling the reader twice that the character shut the door or was surprised by the phone call.

9) Information that needs to be reordered: The character reacts to the gunshot before the reader hears it. (Much better the other way around.)

10) Missing information: The character trips over the cat in the bedroom when last the reader knew he was eating ice cream on the living room couch.

11) Overly long and run-on sentences: Look for sentences that are difficult to read in a single breath or that lose their coherence. (Example) Sam galloped to the steps, leapt three at a time, and landed on the mat, but nothing prepared him for the ice that had formed unexpectedly overnight despite the forecast for fair weather, and he fell flat on his back.

12) Inconsistencies: A character wears a green shirt, and a few pages later, the shirt is blue. Or you’ve indicated that the character can’t see because it’s pitch dark, yet you’ve described the room.

13) Dialog: People generally talk with a natural rhythm of sounds and pauses (or not for some characters). When read aloud, stilted language will sound unnatural and tongue twisters will interrupt the flow. Anything that requires a pause for a second read is worth a revision.

14) Transitions: Transitions from one topic or scene to another may happen too abruptly and need smoothing out.

15) Pacing: Reading aloud is particularly helpful in identifying sequences that are racing by too quickly, slogging along, or wallowing in backstory.

16) Tone: Does the tone sound right? Too formal or casual? A book has an overall tone as does each scene and character.

Do you read your work? Has it helped?

Share your tips and insights.

156 thoughts on “16 Reasons to Read your Words Aloud.

  1. I do read my work. I have an eidetic memory and I usually have to read every word indivually because as soon as I write it, I have memorized it and any missing words or incomplete words, like “ever” instead of “every” are corrected by my brain.
    This was really good information! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Inner Ramblings Boulevard: and commented:
    Here’s some great writing advice worth sharing. Enjoy🌷

    August 14 2016

    Liked by 1 person

  3. astridswords says:

    Reading out loud is a great way of knowing if we truly communicated our wanted message =)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jane says:

    As a former ESL writing teacher, I would have my students sit in small groups of 2-5 and read their essays to each other, for just this purpose. When my students would write as part of a test, we taught them (and also my native speaker students) to correct from the end up toward the beginning, to avert this process of “seeing” what you expect, and not what is actually written on the paper. NEVER EVER assume everything is correct! AND THAT GOES FOR BLOG COMMENTS TOO!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing what we miss – our helpful brains smoothing over our errors even when we don’t want them too! Reading backwards is a powerful technique if one can bear it. I use grammarly for blogging and I still make mistakes. Thanks for the visit and comment! Happy Spring.

      Like

  5. Bernadette says:

    Good morning Diana, I just wanted you to know that I reblogged this article this morning in my Worth Reading column.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great article. Very helpful. Pinning!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Judy Martin says:

    That is fabulous advice, Diana, and something I will be doing when I get stuck into some more editing next week! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This post was a “keeper!” You presented so many precise, practical tips in a short amount of time. I really appreciated the time and effort you put into this excellent, thought-provoking post. Thank you and blessings back,

    Liked by 1 person

  9. marianbeaman says:

    This is the best rationale for reading aloud I’ve even read/heard/saw! I need to do this before my chapters get shipped to a developmental editor. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bernadette says:

    Vey sounds advise. It is amazing the differences the reading aloud finds in the written word.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Like others, I’ve found that it takes far longer than reading silently, and the concentration is intense, but it’s well worth the effort. I just finished reading 126k aloud, and it made subtle, important differences. In one graf, my comma usage made unintended rhymes. Dialogue became smoother, and any excess telly info was deleted.

    Excellent post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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