5 Reasons You Need to Read Your Work Out Loud
"I find that reading my work aloud makes it weird enough that I can't scan or gloss over anything.” — Austin Kleon, author of "Steal Like an Artist"
Because writing is a solitary occupation, copywriters necessarily spend a lot of time inside their own heads. This can be a perilous place to hang out because it’s a self-referential universe. When you’re there, the only perspective you have is your own.
This is a problem because the reason you’re writing is to communicate with other people. So it’s important to find a way to keep your thoughts organized and make sure your writing makes sense once it gets outside the echo chamber of your own skull.
Fortunately, you have a built-in tool that makes that easy: your voice.
Reading your own work aloud will make you a better writer and a sharper thinker. Here are a few things that happen when you do it.
- Your focus becomes clearer. You’ll find which phrases or sections sound weak, passive, or worst of all, unconvincing.
- Hearing the words you’ve just written helps you find the voice you need to use. This is especially important for copywriters. We spend most of our time writing over someone else’s signature, so it’s crucial that we find words, expressions and points of emphasis that fit the letter signer.
- Your vocabulary will improve. Listening to words out loud makes lame or not-quite-right words jump out at you. You’re more likely to grab your dictionary, thesaurus or copy of Rodale’s "The Synonym Finder" to find the precise word that lights up the fireworks in your reader’s mind.
- Mistakes will float to the surface like pond scum. If you read aloud carefully and with expression, all kinds of misspellings, dropped words, typos and other errors will reveal themselves in bas-relief. This shortcut alone can make a first draft sound practically polished.
- You’ll establish more consistent rhythm and pace. Reading aloud gives you a sense of the sounds of your words and how they flow and feed off each other. You’ll be able to hear a missed beat or wrong chord, and turn your copy back into the melodious sonata it was meant to be.
As the great Jane Yolen says, “... the eye and ear are different listeners. So as writers, we need to please both." Sometimes the sound of your own voice can be your best editor… at least until you can get a real editor to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.