How Reading Out Loud Can Make You a Better Writer

Written by A Guest Author

Victoria Otto Franzese

Study after study shows that reading aloud to children provides a multitude of benefits, including sharper focus and better comprehension. Many of these same advantages occur when you read your own writing out loud, which is why doing so can be an important tool for editing your work.

Researchers who have found differences between reading silently and reading aloud suggest that by hearing words in addition to seeing them, your brain becomes more actively engaged, which triggers enhanced cognitive abilities. In other words, you are actually a smarter, more astute editor just by virtue of voicing the words you have written, instead of scanning them only with your eyes.

While there seems to be an overall advantage to reading aloud as part of your editing process, I’ve found that some kinds of mistakes are far easier to spot when you hear them than when you see them. For example, your eyes often fill in the blanks when there are missing words in your manuscript, especially small, every day words like “the” and “in.” Word processing software doesn’t always catch these omissions either. But when you read aloud, you’ll easily spot these errors.

Similarly, you may not notice unnecessary repetition of a word or phrase within your story until you hear it. The same holds true for using common clichés and the individual pet phrases that every writer has.

Awkward sentences become painfully clear when you hear them. If you find yourself stumbling to speak something you have written, you’ll immediately recognize that it’s time to rework that section of your piece.

Find yourself getting out of breath as you read? That’s a clear sign that something’s wrong. Look for missing punctuation marks or a poorly constructed paragraph. Strong writing always includes natural pauses. If there isn’t one, you’ll want to figure out why. Good writing is always clear, crisp and concise—and your ear will tell you when you’ve got it right.

Once you see the advantages of reading your writing out loud to yourself as a critical step during the editing process, you may want to take things a bit further and have someone else read your document aloud to you. If you include humor in your copy, this step can be especially useful, since you may discover that your words aren’t as funny or even as lively as you had intended when your reader doesn’t employ the same intonation and inflection that you do.

Over time, you’ll find that listening to language (whether just in your voice or also in someone else’s) makes you a better writer. Not only will it improve your self-editing as you hear mistakes that you might not have noticed visually, but you may find yourself including euphonic literary devices in your text, such as alliteration and onomatopoeia. You’ll hear the value in alternating long sentences and short ones. And you’ll create a rhythm and flow to your words that make reading your writing a pleasure.


Bio: Victoria Otto Franzese owned, operated, and wrote for a successful online travel guide for 15 years before selling it to a major media outlet. Now, thankfully, all of her travel is purely for fun. Her essays, articles and stories have appeared in a wide variety of online and print publications.

 

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