One of the principles outlined in my e-book is that of reading one’s work aloud. It’s a principle by which I live and breathe. I don’t remember when it became a part of my writing process (College? Grad school? My mom?), but it’s a part of it. It’s critical to the pieces I write at Write Right, and it’s equally critical, if not more so, to the poems I write. My work is a part of an oral tradition, even if it isn’t read aloud by my readers.
Why should you read your work aloud? I suppose the first reason is obvious. It allows you to catch errors you’ve made in your writing. You’ll spot missing words and misspelled words. You’ll trip over sentences and realize that the sentences are a little mangled and require some attention. You’ll discover you have two, distinct ideas in one paragraph, and you need to separate them. Of course, it’s easy to read your work too quickly and to gloss over the errors. If you want to catch errors in your work, you need to read slowly, as though you’re reading the text for the very first time. You also can borrow an idea from Lindsay Bell-Wheeler who says to read your work backwards, that is, from the conclusion to the beginning.
The second reason may not be as obvious, but it’s one that perhaps is more dear to me than the one of catching errors. Reading aloud lets you hear the rhythm of your speech. It makes you aware of the flow of your work and of language itself. As you become accustomed to that rhythm and flow, you learn how to interrupt it. In my case, I sometimes break the rhythm by inserting a short sentence or a fragment in a paragraph that consists of longer sentences. It’s a way of capturing attention and of alerting the reader to take note or to prepare for some change that is about to occur.
The third reason, again not that obvious, is that reading your work aloud prepares you to discuss your work in person. Somehow – and I don’t know how – the words permeate better when they’re read aloud. I become comfortable with the words and the ideas they represent. I remember them and can talk about them because they have become familiar to me.
Do you read your work aloud? If so, why?
Photo: Lee Bennett (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)