16 Reasons to Read your Words Aloud.

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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.

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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.

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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. inesephoto says:

    Great tips! I have never noticed a typo in your books, now I know why 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sacha Black says:

    100% agree although I actually rarely read it out loud more a sort of saying it as a whisper / mouthing the words. I also change the font and print it out that helps too and Ali suggested I read it back wards.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rosanna says:

    Whoa Diana, so many comments! I wonder how you manage to do all the writing you do and still have time to answer all the comments!

    I totally agree with this post…I read my work aloud because it helps me see things from a different perspective. I like to read aloud too because it helps me feel the rhythm – if there is any – of the words I’ve written.

    Great post…!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the comments, Rosanna. They’re the best part of blogging, though they do take time 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I agree that the change in perspective is a big part of the process – it’s what makes the challenges stand out. Have a wonderful weekend and happy writing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. joannesisco says:

    I was involved in public speaking in school and it created a live-long habit of reading everything I write out loud … for all the reasons you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, this is very useful and a friend read my opening chapter aloud to me. It was good to know where she stumbled and I am guilty of overlong sentences!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t have any friends willing for do that! Make sure you let them know how wonderful they are. Yes, it’s really amazing what the ear will hear that our brains miss. I’m glad this was helpful 🙂

      Like

  6. Couldn’t agree more, Diana. (Well, I suppose I could, but that’s just being pedantic, and the end result of me reading this comment aloud to myself once I’d typed it.) It also gives the writer a much bigger sense of gratitude for the celebrity who will one day record the audio version of their book. I had to read over 100 pages of my novel aloud to myself one night before I made a submission, and it took six glasses of wine just to stop the rasping in my throat afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s so true! I totally agree! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reading out loud is one step that should never be skipped. Like you, I think sound and cadence plays a role – especially if you are creating suspense or building a sense of motion or rapidly happening events as well as emotion. Words and sentence construction can be like the surface of a body of water: from peaceful mirror to small ripples to enormous boat swamping waves.
    Your list of benefits is solid gold.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nicely stated. It works on so many levels from simply catching typos to creating the rhythm and pacing of those huge waves you describe. I never skip the step and am often surprised by writers who admit they do. Thanks for the visit. Happy Editing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Heartafire says:

    Exelllent advice, reading aloud alerts us to problems with meter, and as you stated, repeated words. Happens all the time, sometimes I must go back after I have published a spruce up a piece, not good!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Reblogged this on Riley Amos Westbook and commented:
    Great editing advice here. I know I do this.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Erika Beebe says:

    What a great topic! I actually do read outloud. I even think outloud and end up looking like a turkey walking down the hall to everyone at work I pass. I learned the art when my babies were born. I read someplace to talk to them about every action you are about to make…like right before lifting their legs and changing their diaper, I introduced to them exactly what I was doing to calm them. Now the method has stuck with me. The main been fit for me is my slight learning issue with deslexia. I see things different than what they are at times. Reading outloud helps me correct this error. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Thank you for sharing this. It’s a wonderful gift of writer’s wisdom.:0)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] Source: 16 Reasons to Read your Words Aloud. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I still skip over things when I read out loud so I have my computer read my books back to me. There is something about hearing the sentences in that emotionless computer voice that makes issues jump out at me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Elizabeth. Someone else mentioned that below too. I haven’t tried it, but it sounds like another helpful tip. It’s another example of switching things up so that the brain receives the words in a fresh way. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. KC says:

    Excellent article, Diana.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. adeleulnais says:

    I read my work out loud and yes it does work, sometimes with hillarious results.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Thanks, Diana. This is a helpful list. I don’t usually do advertising, but I tried http://www.hemingwayapp.com and liked it a lot. It’s free and I suppose some writers don’t like it, but I found it helpful. It’s color-coded and comes with complete instructions. Good piece. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 2 people

  18. […] Reblogged from D. Wallace Peach at Myths of the Mirror […]

    Liked by 1 person

  19. blondieaka says:

    Great post and thank you..reading through the comments have made me realise, Its not just me! I am a new writer and get so embarrassed when any mistakes are pointed out..really, I mean any….I always say but I just write and I do but then comes the hard part ..the editing…reading all these comments has really helped put all my insecurities about my writing into context…thank you everyone….And I will be reading aloud, very loud with or without an audience 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks D… you always offer such great advice! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. dgkaye says:

    Excellent mini course here Diana. My mentor taught me the importance of printing out my MS a few times through revisions and reading out loud. It’s amazing what our eyes can see on paper which we miss on the screen. And hearing our words out loud is especially helpful for flagging punctuation. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Sean P Carlin says:

    Anything one can do to look at the material from a new perspective during the editorial stage, which often requires repeated rereading of the same passages, is advised, including editing on different computers, in different workspaces (I’ll use my wife’s home office when it’s vacant), changing fonts from draft to draft, reviewing the manuscript on hardcopy every so often, and reading the work aloud — to oneself and to an audience, even. (Quentin Tarantino reads his scripts to friends for the sole purpose of gauging their unconscious facial reactions from moment to moment.) A writer should exhaust the myriad perspectives he can utilize before seeking external feedback.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for adding to the discussion, Sean, with some great tips. I do most of those: switching up font, reading hardcopy, reading hardcopy aloud, reading on the laptop aloud. I haven’t read to an audience, I but would if I could get someone to sit there for 36 hours 😀 😀

      Spacing out the edits is also really important so that the material feels fresh. Toward the end of my process, I’ll highlight paragraphs that I’m not yet happy with. I may edit them 24 times over 24 days until the sound and flow is just right to my ear. Probably a bit overboard 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  23. Excellent advice, Diana! I also try to listen to the rhythm of the words, though I haven’t gotten to the point of actually speaking the words out loud. You reminded me I really need to do it! I have gone through my manuscript back to front, which also helps because the words are in an unfamiliar order. However, I still found errors just going through with my tweaks. Sigh. Happy writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I haven’t read my backwards yet, Julie. That’s going to be the very very last pass. I’m dreading it, but I heard it’s great for catching typos. Reading it aloud foward isn’t nearly as painful 🙂

      Like

  24. Steven Baird says:

    All excellent advice, Diana. Reading uncovers the smallest of sins, and I think is especially important with dialogue; the cadence and tone have to have an organic feel, and speaking the words is one of the best editing tools. I even read aloud in my car during my lunch break. I’m sure anyone passing by would think I’m crazy, but I crossed that border a long time ago. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  25. tric says:

    I find reading aloud essential, for all the reasons you’ve listed above.I especially find it useful for the rhythm of word choice which you described so well.
    It’s also amusing when I read something aloud and it sounds so off and I wonder “what was I thinking?”

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Your post makes so much sense and it is amazing what we miss when we don’t read it out loud. As if reading it out loud isn’t enough, I have it read to me via PDF. Now, that is a boring monotone voice. My Kindle reads though, and I’ll also do that as a final go through! This is a great post, Diana.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. A great idea, but it’s hard to do and not feel silly unless you’re reading to someone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Interesting comment, Michael. I’ve a few writer friends who say they feel awkward if anyone is in earshot. I’ve suggested hiding in the bedroom, bathroom, garage, or car. Either way, it’s worth getting over the awkwardness, just for the extra polish. I hope you try it and find it helpful. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Fantastic advice. I heard this some time ago but probably only read aloud 50% of the time. Thanks for the elbow in the ribs. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Judy Martin says:

    That is such good advice Diana 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Diana Wallace Peach with reasons why it is so important to read your work out loud as part of the editing process. I do mostly and regret it when I don’t.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. sknicholls says:

    Great post! Reading aloud does all of the things you’ve listed above and then some. It’s my favorite form of editing, making me part of the book’s audience.It’s been especially helpful to be in keeping in my character’s POV for scenes and chapters.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Carrie Rubin says:

    Wonderful tips and insights. I wholeheartedly agree. Even though reading our entire manuscript out loud can be tiring, it’s well worth the effort. I do the same with my blog posts. I usually always find an error or two I hadn’t before.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. balroop2013 says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I want to say it 16 times Diana, reading aloud endows us with the amazing power of discerning our own mistakes. Many a times I have chuckled at them after realising those silly little errors that escape unnoticed.
    I learnt it quite early when I was the student editor and had to read again abad again, with mind going dumb and numb, reading aloud awakens it with that much needed coffee! Debate writing becomes more effective the moment you try to read aloud.
    Thanks for the reminders dear friend. I love to read my poems aloud to myself to make sure they seem like poetry. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, Balroop. I love reading poetry aloud. The cadence and sounds are as important as the imagery. I can see why debate writing would also benefit from the exercise. It’s a necessary part of my process, for sure. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  34. babbitman says:

    I used to write script for our youth theatre group, so had to read aloud to make sure it was easy to actually get your tongue around! I sent my first kids’ story to Al the Author (when we both ‘came out’ as budding writers) and he spotted a ‘word crash’ when reading it to his lad (this is where you trip over complex consonant changes or lose the pause/emphasis of the sentence). In my head, it worked fine but when I read it out loud I crashed too! Obviously a re-write quickly followed… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • I image reading aloud is mandatory as part of the editing process for scripts. And it must be cool to hear other people speak your words. The “word crash” is a great example of the kinds of things that I catch in my own work – all too often. Thanks for the visit and comment 🙂 Happy writing.

      Liked by 2 people

  35. I have the honor of writing for kids, so I’m always testing out my writing on my boy. At other times I listen to my wife read my stuff aloud to my boy, to see if there are any awkward word jumbles in there.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I always speak it. You just pick up on the odd thing you otherwise wouldn’t.

    Liked by 3 people

  37. Annika Perry says:

    Diana, this is superb! A whole writing course in one post! Seriously, I’m nodding away, yep, this morning picked up on a sequence error, punctuation mistake and always watching out that I vary start of sentences. The importance of reading aloud cannot be stressed too strongly as far as I’m concerned! We were taught this as young at school and I still recall the mesmerising joy of reading Milton aloud, the beautiful cadence – although I hadn’t got a clue what it was all about!

    Liked by 2 people

    • How great that you were encouraged to do that in school! I like reading poetry aloud – Coleridge and Hopkins come to mind. I think the same beauty of sound can be applied to prose (plus catching all the darn mistakes)! Thanks for the comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree with Annika…it’s a whole writing curse in one post! Your post is such a great example of how much work is involved in writing a book. I do tend to read my work out loud and even then I miss some things. It’s incredible how, even after so many, many edits, there are still mistakes. I often find them in works by well known writers with big name editors. I think we need to be a little bit forgiving…to a limit, of course. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • I know, Carol. After 8 drafts, 5 full critiques, 2 read-alouds, 5 beta readers, and 1 final proofreader, there are still mistakes! Arrrrgh. It’s amazing. For me, this step is huge, but it sure doesn’t cover it all. We do our very best and eventually have to set our work free 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  38. This is very interesting! I have always felt it is good to read aloud! I have found so many mistakes that I missed!

    Liked by 1 person

  39. davidprosser says:

    Don’t tell me I have to learn to read as well as write now. I don’t think much of this retirement lark.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Dawn D says:

    Thanks for all these great pointers!
    When I proofread, I tend to listen to the voice in my head, not just race through the meaning like I do when I read for information.
    So I don’t read aloud, but I guess it’s a bit similar?
    When I do proofread, I do focus on most of the things you mentioned, except that I have never written fiction, so it’s easier not to miss those things you mentioned like the colour of the shirt changing and so on.
    But this is all very interesting and I’ll bookmark it for when I do, indeed, write a longer story 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  41. noelleg44 says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Diana. The last thing I do, after the beta readers, the editors, the copy editor, is read the book aloud. It’s amazing what I’ve found to correct. I highly recommend this!

    Liked by 2 people

  42. philipparees says:

    I am glad I am not the only one to listen for rhythm, cadences and unobtrusive alliteration. I suspect the musical sense is responsible to being accused of being ‘literary’ and yet ornery dull construction bores me rigid. Getting the balance right is always a problem and I don’t read aloud enough to help. So thanks. Advice to be henceforth heeded!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t help hearing it, Philippa. I’ll spend 15 minutes looking for the perfect three-syllable word…and if I can’t find it, I end up rewriting the whole sentence to adjust the rhythm …which then results in rewriting the paragraph. I drive myself crazy 🙂 Glad the advice was useful!

      Like

  43. Great stuff here, D. I was an editor before I was a writer. So I try to be extra cautious, review my work a few times before publishing. Never thought of reading aloud. Interesting concept. ☺

    Note…I usually respond spontaneously,hardly ever re-read my comments, and I’ve seen the typos when I go back and look. sigh….

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Yes I read everything aloud, either after the first writing, or on the last draft just to be sure I have not missed anything

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Ocean Bream says:

    I never do that. What a good idea. Thank you for sharing all these wonderful and thought worthy tips!

    Liked by 1 person

  46. The Child Bride has, several times, yelled from around the corner, “Who are you talking to?”

    Liked by 1 person

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