Five Reasons You Should Read Your Writing Out Loud
Use your ears to hear your stories.
Part of my background is in broadcasting, so reading out loud and speaking to people electronically or in person is in my wheelhouse. But most writers do not think of their words in this way—words to be heard. To them they are only words to be read, usually silently.
If you write, it is to your advantage that you read your work aloud. Let’s hear what you have to say. Here are five reasons why this process can benefit your writing.
- You will catch awkward or unnecessary phrases. When we write, we write in silence, meaning we figure out the words in our head and then simply type them. And when you do this, you tend to create unnecessary phrases and sentences, description that is filler, fluff. If we read the work out loud that “fluff” jumps out at us. It will reveal what needs to be cut.
- You find the music in your words. When people say, “that writer writes so beautifully,” they usually means he/she writes like a poet, a lyricist, and the words flow like the most magnificent of songs. And how do we know we like a particularly song? We hear it. It’s not enough to see the notes on a staff; we must experience the melody aurally. Words on a page are no different. Reading out loud will let you know immediately if you are one of the “beautiful writers” or if your story is clunking along like a bad ballad from the 80s. It helps you find the rhythm and pace of your writing, and to ultimately create a memorable melody of story.
- You will find your voice. There is so much talk about writers finding their voice, that unique pattern and style that is all yours. Many times writing workshops tend to overplay voice. But what they do get right is that writers should write enough to discover it, not force it. Let it emerge naturally. Reading out loud can help in this process. The more you hear your words, the more you can identify how your writing voice is developing.
- You will find your mistakes. We read silently, in part, through a filter. If we do a lot of reading, our brains skim through anticipated phrases and words. We do not read every single word. But, if we read out loud, we are forced to read every word, and that permits us to discover those grammatical errors, typos, even help us see where that comma is misplaced.
- You become a better reader of your own work. If you find yourself writing material that is published or can be shared at many of the live lit experiences popping up all over most cities, reading your work out loud will give you practice. You will hear where you need to work on intonation and pace, where there are words and phrases that look good on paper but are hard to say, and you’ll prepare yourself for troublesome pronunciations. I recently wrote a piece that mentioned a town in Wales. I had seen the town’s name hundreds of times in print, but until I read it out loud, I truly hadn’t known the correct way to say it. Reading out loud fixed that.
When I work with students, I insist they read their work out loud in class. I walk around and urge them on, demanding they read it with a strong voice and out of the whispers. Say the words. Punch them. It is the only way to discover the great advantage of reading out loud what you write.
Try it. You’ll like it.