Last week we talked about distancing yourself from your work in order to be able to edit with a fresh and critical eye: Self Editing Tip #1: Distancing yourself from your work. In addition to distancing yourself from your piece you need to be able to hear what the piece sounds like to other people.
No, you don’t have to go and round up neighbors to read your articles, all you have to do is read it out loud to yourself. Sounds a bit strange I know. The best thing about reading written work out loud is you are better able to get a feel of how the article flows. If you are reading your article out loud and you stumble over a spot or find yourself a bit confused with what the piece is trying to say, then most likely your audience will stumble or struggle at the same spot.
Hearing the piece out loud also allows for your ears to hear what is actually written on the page. Reading silently, our eyes can play tricks on us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve silently edited a piece and think a word says one thing when it actually says another. It is because my mind knows what should be there so it helpfully places it there and those silly eyes go right along with the trick. Saying the words out loud will allow your ears to catch those slips of the mind.
Finally, reading a piece out loud helps you figure out where there may be holes in the piece, where your wording may become a bit cliche’, where transitions falter or where information needs to be broken up and possibly bullet pointed.
Many writers voice their initial discomfort with reading their work aloud, but it’s really easy to get over, just remember you probably talk to yourself anyway, why not make it benefit your career!