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Here is a Method that is Helping Writers Find Mistakes in Their Work

by Jennifer on November 5, 2009

By Jennifer Blanchard

Everywhere you look, writers are publishing content that has typos, missing words, double words, etc. It’s happening on popular blogs, in articles, in books, magazines, newspapers…

It’s inevitable for an error to sneak in every now and then. If you take the time to edit your writing, however, it can happen less often.

But sometimes editing isn’t enough. Sometimes proofreading isn’t enough.

If you want a more effective way to catch mistakes before you hit the publish button, you have to read your work out loud.

Why Out Loud?
Although many writers don’t do it, there are several good reasons to read your writing out loud:

  • You’ll discover sentences that are too wordy–If you run out of breath while reading the sentence, it’s too damn long.
  • You’ll notice words that are missing or repeated–How many times have you read a blog post that said said something twice?
  • You’ll come across sentences that don’t make sense.
  • You’ll locate missing punctuation
  • You’ll find that your writing gets better and better.
  • You’ll be a better editor/proofreader overall.

I could go on.

There are a few different options when it comes to reading your work out loud. Here are my suggestions:

  • Read it out loud to yourself–If you do nothing else, read it out loud to yourself. Make sure you’re in a quiet place so you can hear what you’re reading.
  • Read it out loud into a recorder–If you’re working on a piece of fiction or poetry, it’s a good idea to read the entire thing into a recorder and then play it back. Listen to yourself read it. You’ll notice right away mistakes, parts that move too slowly or scenes that happen too quickly.
  • (If you’re brave) Have someone else read your story out loud to you–You’ll hear many things you’d miss if you just read it in your head.

Do you read your writing out loud? How has it helped you catch mistakes?  

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Trina November 5, 2009 at 11:58 am

Excellent advice! It works too. Reading out loud also helps establish cadence and flow. I admit that sometimes I don’t have time to read aloud before I publish, but it is a necessity.
When I write technical manuals, we do peer reviews, but if there isn’t another writer or editor available, we must read our own work aloud.

2 Molly November 5, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I like reading aloud, but another method that I have found is some freeware for Mac called iReadFast. It flashes each word of your text in a little box at whatever speed you choose, which helps a writer like me who can sometimes see sentences as one whole, minus any mistakes or errors. I have also seen this REALLY work for trying to stay with one tense. Reading your document word by word really magnifies any problems. The download url is http://mac.sofotex.com/download-136072.html.
Hope this helps somebody else!

3 jblan November 5, 2009 at 12:40 pm

@Molly Thanks for the link! I wonder if they have anything similar for PCs?

4 jblan November 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm

@Trina I try to read my writing out loud as often as possible. But I, too, admit that when I’m in a hurry I sometimes forget.

5 Allison November 5, 2009 at 1:59 pm

This is so true! Reading aloud is the only way to catch some of these mistakes, and it lets you know if something just doesn’t sound right. If you’ve been doing a lot of revising to a piece, this is the best way to catch those little stray words that your delete key sometimes misses.

Great post!

6 Cathryn November 5, 2009 at 7:28 pm

I love seeing this today! I’m finishing my final re-write/edit next week and then have set aside about 4-6 weeks for reading aloud.

I’ve learned this with short stories. You think a piece is smooth and well polished and you read it out loud and my how the clunkers, repetitious wording, etc. explode in your face.

Thanks for the reminder that reading aloud 300-odd pages will be worth the investment!

7 Natalia Maldonado November 7, 2009 at 12:07 am

This is so true. I read all my work out loud, and what I’ve found most helpful is printing it, moving away from my desk and reading it out loud as I pace the room. I don’t know why it works, but it does, though I only do it occasionally since I’d feel guilty printing out every piece of writing I do. Reading it backwards helps to catch spelling typos, since it helps you focus on just the words.

Will have to look into that iReadFast program, Molly!

8 Larry November 7, 2009 at 1:55 pm

I’d like to tell your readers here about the gift you (Jennifer, who host’s this site) gave me. When I published my new ebook a couple of weeks ago, I sent Jennifer the book (as peers tend to do). Not only was she very gracious in reviewing it here, she also took the unsolicited time to carefully go through the book and locate an entire list of typos in the beta version I’d sent. This was huge, and most appreciated. Two other beta readers did the same, too.

So by all means, when you see a typo in a blog (especially, because the author can quickly fix it, unlike a book or published article), tell the author about it.

Quick story: one reader of my ebook wrote me to alert me to the fact that the whiskey I’d referenced in the text as “Jack Daniels” was actually, correctly, to be written as “Jack Daniel’s” (possessive with apostrophy). I googled it and flickred it, and darned if he wasn’t correct. The guy the booze is named after was Jack Daniel, no ‘s’. Who knew.

As someone who is famous for typos (probably some here, too), despite my best proofing efforts, I love it when I get a little help from my friends.

9 jennifer blanchard November 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm

@Larry I was more than happy to help! Your blog–and now your eBook–has changed my life. Before your blog/eBook, I had a certain “attitude” about traditional publishing and was hell-bent on self-publishing as a way to avoid all the BS that goes along with traditional publishing (rejections, rejections, rejections…did I mention rejections? years spent trying to find the right home for your book, time lost by waiting, etc).

But now I realize my “attitude” was more surrounding my fear of rejection and fear of never getting published (aka: not being good enough) than it was about all the hoop-jumping.

I’m still a fan of self-publishing (for those who do it properly)–but I have a new attitude regarding publishing in general.

No longer am I afraid that the world will reject my novel. Now that I know what I didn’t know (hello story structure!), I feel confident that my first novel will not only receive critical aclaim, but it will also be the jumping-off point to my successful fiction career.

All it took was a few hours and 127 pages. (If you haven’t read Story Structure–Demystified, read it NOW!)

10 jennifer blanchard November 9, 2009 at 2:08 pm

@Cathryn Reading your fiction out loud–even 300 pages of it–will definitely be worth your time!

@Natalia Reading backwards–wow! Never thought of that one, but you’re right; it’s a great way to catch errors since you’re forcing yourself to concentrate on every word.

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