Many aspiring writers struggle for years to improve their craft without seeing much progress. The truth is quality writing doesn’t happen overnight – it takes patience, practice and perseverance to sharpen your skills. However, there is one simple trick that can help you see an immediate improvement in your writing almost immediately: reading your work out loud.
Though it may sound too basic to make much difference, reading your writing out loud forces you to slow down and hear every word. This allows you to catch clumsy sentences, typos, grammatical errors, and awkward phrasing that your eyes may gloss over when reading silently. When you read out loud, you experience your writing the same way your future readers will, exposing shortcomings in flow, tone and clarity.
To utilize this technique: find a quiet place, open up a printout of your draft, and start at the beginning. Read slowly and carefully, enunciating each word clearly. Resist the urge to speed up or skim. Listen to the way your sentences sound when spoken aloud. Pay attention to the rhythm and cadence of your language. Notice if anything sounds stilted, convoluted, or difficult to pronounce. Mark any rough spots as you go so you can polish the language later.
This process will reveal weaknesses in your writing you didn’t even realize existed. Sentences that seem eloquent on paper often sound long-winded and awkward when read out loud. Overly complex language becomes clear as confusing. Redundancies stand out like a sore thumb. The simple act of speaking your words forces you to simplify complex ideas and break up dense blocks of text.
You’ll begin to notice tendencies in your writing that need improvement. For example, you may recognize that you overuse certain phrases and words as crutches. Some writers rely too much on short, choppy sentences that lack flow. Other writers get bogged down in long, rambling sentences that lose the reader’s focus. These are the kinds of bad habits that reading out loud exposes quickly.
As you mark areas that need clarification or tightening, you’ll also pinpoint spots where you can enrich your language. Hearing a bland or lifeless passage inspires you to spice it up. Detecting a transition between ideas that falls flat motivates you to strengthen the thread. Places begging for an extra sentence or paragraph become obvious. Reading aloud guides you to write with more impact.
Once you finish the entire piece, go back through to systematically edit everything you flagged. Smooth out clumsy sentences. Break up lengthy monsters into shorter bites. Eliminate unnecessary words. Add details wherever needed to create clearer pictures. Then read the revised sections aloud again – you may need to do multiple rounds of edits as your writing improves.
This simple editing trick trains your ear to recognize weak writing and develops self-editing skills. The more you practice reading your work aloud during the revision process, the more instinctive you’ll become at catching issues with flow, tone, clarity and concision as you write your first drafts. You’ll learn to write the way you speak – with rhythm, fluidity and coherence.
While reading aloud is not a cure-all, it is an easy way to instantly boost your writing. The benefits are three-fold: you refine mechanical skills needed to craft crisp smooth sentences; you enhance conceptual skills to shape powerful ideas and vivid descriptions; and you cultivate critical skills of continually evaluating and improving your work. These translate into seeing an immediate boost in the quality of your writing.
So don’t keep struggles with your manuscript to yourself – give it a voice. Read it aloud, listen with an honest ear, and edit with a critical eye. Use this simple trick to take your writing to the next level starting today.
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