Reading Out Loud
After reading Peter Elbow’s great book on writing called Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing, I have made it a habit to read all my writing out loud before submitting to publication. This has helped me become more objective in my writing. Although it may seem a little unnatural or exhausting (especially if it is a long piece of writing) to read every word out loud, I have found it to be an indispensable tool.
Fixing Technical Mistakes
Reading writing out loud has a few benefits. First, it slows our thinking down since we often read slower out loud then we do in our heads. When we slow down, we pay more attention to each word. This way, it is much easier to find missing or misspelled words as well as other grammatical mistakes. This tip has helped me reduce the number of errors in my writing.
Deepening Your Writing
But the benefits go deeper than simply the cosmetic correction of grammar. As Elbow explains, “When we take the time to insist that every sentence feel right in the mouth and sound right in the ear, the process cajoles our written language into comfortable intonation units.” In other words, we start to notice how our writing sounds. Is it stilted? A little too stuffy? Or perhaps it isn’t formal enough. We can also hear the flow of the language. Often, I find myself stumbling over the word order of what I have written despite it being grammatically correct.
Bringing Life to Characters
It also helps me hear how a character is speaking. I can better pay attention to the emotions the character is expressing as well as his or her speech patterns. It has helped me make my characters sound more alive.
Overall, I have found reading my work out loud helps me tighten my writing. I have taught many students this tip and both they and I have seen (and heard) the benefits it brings.