Stop, Look, Listen

Friday, March 06, 2009
How many of you read your work aloud? Hearing your words can actually help you take note of several positives and negatives in your writing.

Positive Reasons to Read Aloud
First, who doesn't enjoy hearing something you've created read aloud? After all, the sweetest word ever heard to a person is the sound of someone saying her name.

The audience doesn't need to be an auditorium of people, either. After I've written a draft, I print it and shut the office door. Here is where I hear the flow of words. Here is where I note the quick turns of phrases I've invented. Here is where I self-edit my work.

You see, by reading one's work aloud, you constructively critique your own work. That, in itself, is a necessary tool all writers need to use. Our inner critic speaks loudly to us and helps us realize what areas need work.

If you're lucky enough to belong to a writer's group, or if your significant other agrees to be the listening guinea pig, you will receive additional feedback - another valuable tool a writer needs to use! My husband usually indulges me and lets me read my work to him. His suggestions guide me to make decisions that will only improve my craft.

Both of us have noticed that I use "pet" phrases in a lot of the newspaper articles I write. Those snippets of words are comfortable and help me get the point across. Reading aloud also has shown that I tend to use certain words repeatedly. This especially came to light when I was rereading some poetry I'd written about 10 years ago. Three words were in every poem. I hadn't noticed that pattern when I wrote the poems. Now, those words stand out like a sore thumb.

Negative Aspects of Reading Aloud
Do any negative aspects of reading aloud exist? If you live in an isolated area, finding a willing listener might prove difficult. Otherwise, I can't think of any reason not to read your work aloud.

Consider This
When you were in elementary school (yes, that's a stretch for me), one of my favorite times of the day was when our teacher would read to us after the noon recess. We would come inside, shut off the lights, and listen to her magically tell the stories of The Boxcar Children, Laura Ingalls Wilder, or any other popular book from the time.

When I'm reading a novel, I'll catch myself reading sections or phrases aloud to my husband. Why? Because they've caught my attention. I even catch myself highlighting phrases or sections of a novel because I will return to it and reread it, aloud. It's a powerful way to learn how the flow and momentum of words.

Reading and writing work in tandem, and I've often said that good writers are good readers. Reading your work aloud will improve your writing.


Maddie James said...

I'm a big fan of reading aloud my work. It's the last step in my editing process. I don't read to anyone, just myself (or perhaps, my plants!) It is amazing the things I catch at the last minute. Nice article.

Linda Hoye said...

I always read my work aloud, and always make changes after doing so.

Joanne said...

I do read work out loud, finding it helps me catch simple grammatical errors that are easy to overlook - repeated words, flow of ideas. My daughter works in her college writing center and they often advise students to do this, it's a very effective method of polishing the work.

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