Writing Tips: Why Reading Aloud is Your Best Editing Friend

So you've gotten through the hard stuff.  You've written the book.  You've bandaged your typing blisters. You've had a doctor's consultation for carpal tunnel.  What now?  Send it in and rake in the big bucks?  

Pardon me while I laugh hysterically. 


It sucks (unless you're me and you weirdly thrive on it) but it's the thing that will turn your book from .99 cent fanfiction slush to something that people will look at and say, hey.  That's a real book.  Rock on.  Yeah, they'll say that.  

The problem is, you've lived this book.  You've slaved over every word.  You know it too well.  One tactic: put it away for a while.  Another: read it out loud.  

So, it sounds a little painful, but it's one of those things my amazing fiction teacher suggested and it works.  And it's easy.  And it has all sorts of advantages.  You know the old form/from problem?  Where spellcheck doesn't catch it.  Read it aloud and you'll realize all the typos you thought you didn't have, that your brain fixed for you on every readthrough.  


- Boring parts:  So you're reading aloud and you find that you really just want to skip this passage and that reading it is painful.  Maybe that means you should cut it.  If even you think it sucks, what will your reader think? 

- Weird phrasing:  If you're reading it and it sounds like gibberish, time to take another look at that sentence. 

- Long sentences:  If you have to take three breaths to get through it, consider slicing it up.  Yeah, your reader won't be reading aloud.  But they'll still get lost by the end.  Unless that's your intention, in which case, go for it cautiously. 

- Dialogue:  Reading aloud is the best cure for weird dialogue.  If it sounds like you're speaking like a robot or a Shakespearean disaffect or some kind of alien, then it's a good sign you need to edit it.  Make sure it's how people talk.  People use contractions.  People leave out words.  They assume things and skim things.  Think how you talk.  Now think about what you're reading.  

Read aloud and you'll get your book in a new perspective.  Good luck!  


  1. It also really helps, I think, when other people read your work aloud :). Definitely in regards to awkward phrasing and long sentences. You know when you want to pause vs. having someone else who's not certain of that -- what errors does she make that you don't? But I agree with you 100%. Reading aloud is one of the best ways to reveal when something's wrong with your work.

  2. Excellent advice. I'm teaching a writing class next month. I always tell my students that reading aloud is the easiest and fastest way to find sentences that don't work.