Just Listen:The Hidden Value of Hearing the Words You Write

When editing my novel, I read it on the screen. I print it out and read it on paper. And I read it out loud.


Because there are certain writing inconsistencies that will only be revealed as I hear the words I wrote.

What are some of the things I might find?

Repetition. It's so easy to so overuse words I so love, and so it can be hard to spot them, so I read aloud. Has this ever happened to you?

Smoothness. Some sentences, which I thought were carefully crafted, sound like I chopped them apart with a knife when I read them out loud. I'm always surprised at how differently my brain works when using my fingers, as opposed to my mouth.

Adverbs. The dreaded -ly adverbs reveal themselves consistently, annoyingly, and alarmingly when my critique group listens to me read.

Unintentional rhyming. Or puns. Author Bruce Coville, who runs a business making audio books, has run across this often. One book he recorded, that took place on the high seas,  had this sentence in a battle scene: "Seamen flooded the deck." Enough said.

Reading out loud to yourself is wonderful. Hearing someone else read your work is even better. Your mind is free from the business of reading, and can fully engage in analysis. If you don't have someone to read to you, there are dozens of text-to-speech websites that will do it for you (for free), and many are capable of reading in multiple languages. This site gives ratings on five good ones, but many more can be found with an internet search.

Has reading your work out loud refined your writing? Tell us how in the comments.


  1. I so agree. Reading out loud has probably been the most helpful tool for revision. The voice in your head knows what it's supposed to sound like and reads it as such. But your ears can hear when something is just plain wrong.

  2. Computers come with text-to-speech either installed or on the installation disk so it can be installed.

    I use it to proof read my manuscripts. It's also pretty dang handy for going over electronic galleys.

  3. Thanks for the great post, Debbie! You're so right! And it's even more true when editing picture books.

  4. It makes me wonder if I could write novels well without my ears, JE!

    Marilynn-I hadn't thought that it might be helpful with electronic galleys. It's fun that some of the websites let you choose the sex and nationality of the "reader". So you can hear your story with a British accent.

    And Mayra, you're right about the picture books. It's so important for them to be lyrical, I'm sure you've got to read them aloud multiple times.




Related Posts with Thumbnails