When In Doubt, Read it Out (Loud) - Julie Hammonds

As promised, as an addition to my Bonanza today, a repost from Julie Hammonds.  Her blog: Words4Wildlife: Notes from the field.

 

I worked on a piece of writing over the past weekend. It was the first new writing I’ve done, of any substance, since last fall, when the book I’m editing took over my life and started strangling my creativity like kudzu.

The rough draft poured itself onto the page Saturday morning. That afternoon, still feeling inspired and creative, I continued to work it like a potter with a lump of clay, finding jagged edges and smoothing them down.

Then I left it alone for a day. It’s a little-known fact that words need to sit in a quiet, dark place, such as a sleeping hard drive or a closed journal, in order to achieve their full essence.

Sunday afternoon, I pulled it out and read it through. Once I knew the thing was interesting enough to be worth revising, it was time to edit.

I worked through it paragraph by paragraph, trying to make the flow of my own thought more accessible to anyone else who might read it.

Finally, when I knew one more silent read-through would not reveal any new flaws, I read the piece aloud.

This is something I often encourage other writers to do. I’m sure the scientists who write for Arizona Wildlife Views magazine think it’s a crazy suggestion, something I picked up at editor school, a suggestion nobody would be stupid enough to act on.

But it works. When I read a piece aloud, I find the gaps in my punctuation that need to be filled with commas, and the places where too many punctuation cues are stifling my voice. I hear unintended word repetitions my eyes have stopped seeing. I get a sense of whether the piece sounds natural and unforced, or sloppy, or stuffy. This is all so much easier to notice when I’m hearing the words.

Hey, writers: Listen to your editor. Read your work out loud.

 

Julie Hammonds is a freelance writer-photographer and the associate  editor of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine. Through words and pictures, she connects people with wildlife and the natural world.

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Tags: editing, proofreading, re-read, wildlife

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Comment by Nancy Miller on April 2, 2012 at 2:51pm

Great advice, Elisabeth! Text sounds different on your ear than it does as you read silently. Totally different experience, and I often spot really obvious awkward phrasing when I read aloud. It's a bit more time consuming but worth the effort and every writer should read her work out loud at some point, and certainly while in late revision mode.

Comment by Tina L. Hook on April 2, 2012 at 9:41am

I just started doing this and it does make a difference, though my cats think I'm crazy. And letting a piece rest, man have I learned that lesson.

www.GirlwithaNewLife.com

Comment by Tina Barbour on April 1, 2012 at 8:55pm

I agree! In fact, I was just reading aloud a blog post this evening before posting it. It helps me "hear" the voice of the piece and make adjustments where needed.

I like to write and write and then put the piece aside for a while too. Sometimes I think I've written a total mess, but then I come back and find some nuggets to work with.

Great post!

Comment by Heather Marsten on April 1, 2012 at 7:51am

So true, I read everything out loud - If I'm in a Starbucks I put my hand over my mouth so my lips aren't seen moving and whisper the words out loud - helps me catch a lot of rough places.  Have a blessed day.

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