Reading your work aloud—a refresher

When you search Google for “why you should read your writing aloud,” the line at the top of the first page says there are roughly 24.6 million results.

That number in itself seems like a pretty convincing reason for the value of vocalizing your work in progress.

Reading your writing aloud has been an element of every workshop in which the Fairfield Writer’s Blog has been a member. Each writer around the table brings in and distributes copies of her or his latest scene or chapter or essay, then reads the piece aloud as the others follow along on their copies. (The FWB has never participated in a workshop in which copy was distributed and expected to be reaReading-Aloud1d before a session.) Critiquing follows, ideally with the writer remaining silent as the others offer opinions on what did work and what didn’t work.

The reading-to-the-group system seems sensible, except for one thing: The piece was written to be read silently, in a book, in a magazine or on a screen. Sometimes sentences that seem unwieldy to your colleagues—because of your ineffective vocalizing or a length that requires you to take an extra breath or two—would be perfectly fine if those fellow writers weren’t listening to it as well as reading it.

Oh, and another thing: In the FWB’s experience, at least, the writing of fellow read-alouders with British accents always sounds better than that of us American speakers. Of course, sometimes it is better.

To encourage aspiring writers to share their work and to get comfortable reading it aloud, the Library holds an open-mike Writers Read night on the first Tuesday of every month. In addition to the usual benefits of reading work aloud, writers learn to enunciate better, speak more slowly (or, rarely, faster), and project their voices at an appropriate volume for the room. Unlike a workshop, Writers Read is critique free, although audience members are invited to ask questions of the author after her or his reading.

Whether you opt to read aloud in public or a classroom, do try it at home. For many writers, it is an essential step in the revising and proofing process. The FWB has a difficult time reading aloud when alone. It makes him self-conscious, which reading in a workshop or for an audience does not.

Whenever you read aloud—whether to yourself or to a group—have a pen or pencil in your hand. Then, every time you stumble while reading a passage, or recognize a repetition in sentence structure or length, or catch an overused word, or find a typo or another boo-boo, make a simple mark in the margin. Only when you finish, go back and find the faults and correct them. Do not pause to scrawl in a correction as you are vocalizing.

With so many other places that already have done so, the FWB purposely has avoided enumerating reasons to read your writing out loud. If you need specifics to be convinced of its value, click on these links to four of those places cited in the Google search (the artwork above comes from one of those sites, author Steven R. Southard’s Poseidon’s Scribe).

Alex McNab

Published in: on January 26, 2016 at 9:02 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great comments! I usually read with a pen in hand.

    Thank you Alex.


  2. I note a sneaky reference to people who read with British accents. The implication is that it gives them (I know who he means…) an unfair advantage. To which I say, I need every advantage I can get. So I will be reading next Tuesday at the Fairfield Public Library for Writers Read, the monthly open mic – Tuesday 7-9. 🙂

  3. Thanks for noticing my blog on the subject, and linking to it. Glad you found my graphic image worth posting!

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