Writing, Editing, Revision, Reading

How to Edit Your Own Writing II: Listen to It

Shortly after we learn to read, we’re taught to read silently; this is considered a great milestone. And it is. But reading aloud is a useful tool. Plus, it can be a lot of fun. When you read your own writing aloud, it sounds very different than it does in your head. Yes, some of it may sound stupid, silly, trite. But some of it will sound wonderful; you’ll be amazed that you wrote that sentence!

Most likely, your first draft will contain more of the poor writing than the astounding writing, but that’s to be expected. (That’s why we write and rewrite and rewrite and so on. More about that another time.) What you’ll also find is your own mistakes. When you read aloud, you’ll catch your fragments and run-on sentences. You may even find your comma splices. Plus, you’ll hear the phrases that don’t work, that are awkward or contradictory.

If you feel idiotic reading aloud, do it anyway. Find some privacy: close your door, lock it if necessary, whisper if you have to. If you find that you can’t listen while you’re reading, record your writing or have a friend or family member read it to you. In all cases, keep a draft of the writing and a pen or pencil with you and mark down any- and everything you want to come back to (don’t fix it then; just put enough so you’ll know what you mean). Imagine the money you’ll save with your editor, too!