Reading it out loud

I got this wonderful piece of advice from a teacher.

When editing your work, read it out loud to yourself. It does seem strange when you first do it; you are conscious that anyone nearby is wondering why you’re talking to yourself. But you get used to it very quickly.

Reading out my work to myself, I can pick out the words that I stumble on, pauses in sentences that require a full-stop and shorter pauses that may require a comma, especially in dialogue.

It’s an excellent technique and helps you hear the beats within a piece, the resonance of words complimenting each other and the dissonance of those that don’t – be it an intentional choice or not.

It also highlights repetitive words (unless consciously written to emphasise a critical point) and the repetition of a character’s name where he or she may suffice.

Bear in mind that reading your work out loud is something you do when you are moving towards the last draft of a novel, you could do it earlier, but if you have re-writing or structural changes still to make then it’s very hard to part with finely edited work. Also, it’s a good habit for short stories and poetry.

Eventually, reading your work out loud to yourself becomes as natural as breathing. Indeed, one day you will have to read your work to an audience so best do it beforehand in private.

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