Editing Challenge Day 29: Read it Aloud

This is a new part of my 30-Day Editing Challenge. Start at the beginning or find other days here.

For our second-to-last day of editing, writers, we’re going back to one of the most tried-and-true tricks of editing. This is a technique that everyone agrees on: nothing is better for identifying awkwardness or weak phrasings or logical inconsistencies or dull bits or just about any other weakness in writing. This trick is why professional writers about to read from their published books can often be seen with pen in hand, hastily crossing things out in their printed books because they now know it won’t sound right.

So today, your job is easy: just find a quiet place, whether it’s out in the garden or in your bathroom; get somewhere where you won’t feel self-conscious, and no one else is listening.

And read that thing out loud.

Sound mortifying? That’s exactly why it must be done. You must be confident enough in your work to be proud of how it sounds, or for it to be at least tolerable to hear. If even you can’t bear listening, then how do you expect anyone else to want to listen to it?

The great thing about reading aloud is that sentences that are awkwardly phrased or unclear jump immediately to the fore. Now something that you could skim over with your eyes becomes clunky in your mouth. Now you can hear where your prose sings and where it squawks.

Good luck, writers. Have fun; enjoy yourself. The other great thing about reading aloud is that it isn’t only shaming; it’s an occasion to feel proud of the sentences you’ve created as well.

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