21 June 2023

Why You Really Should Read Your Manuscript Aloud


Editing has a lot of people moaning in frustration. Writing is a creative process, and every writer I've ever known can't wait for that moment when the words just pour out. But the editing process is sort of the opposite. It's precise, with a stringent set of rules that must be obeyed. That's probably why most authors say it is one of their least favorite parts of the writing process, aside from perhaps marketing.

And I am definitely no exception. Ugh! Just thinking about it has me wishing for a genie to edit my writings for me. However, it is part of the writing process. So, I pick up my proverbial red pen and get to work. There's definitely something utterly satisfying about reading a paragraph and then picking it apart, analyzing it from beginning to end, trying to find a way to improve it. But nothing, in my humble opinion, beats reading my work out loud. It's one of those simple tricks that can help your story tremendously. 

So, now you probably wonder if this really works and why!? The answer is fairly simple: When we read quietly, we can read extremely fast, but when we read aloud, we are forced to take our time to form the words with our mouths. This slows us down tremendously, and when we slow down, the brain can actually see what we're reading rather than see what we think is there. 

Quietly reading requires our brain to do quite a bit of processing. We're seeing, interpreting, and perceiving the words. But reading out loud adds an acoustic component as we see the words and hear them as well. This requires our brains to process even more information. This, in turn, leads to better editing. 

The end result? When you read your scribbles aloud, you're bound to catch a lot more mistakes than when you just rush through your manuscript quietly. Here are some of the problems that reading aloud can help resolve:

Misspelled Words

We're so familiar with our own stories that when we read them in our heads, we tend to see what we meant to put down on paper rather than what we really wrote. Reading aloud helps us see (and hear) the typos, misspellings, dropped words, and other blunders that are so easily missed. So just reading the manuscript out loud once can have a notable advantage.


Many astute readers become quickly annoyed with sentences that contain repeated words and poor sentence structures. When you have numerous sentences in a row that begin with "I did...", these recurrences can start to get on the readers' nerves. Read those paragraphs aloud, and the repetitions will suddenly pop out at you, letting you know which sentences need to be rewritten.

Inadequate Sentence Structure

When we read aloud, we're more likely to read the words how they would be spoken. When we start rambling or reach an overly wordy sentence, we will probably stumble. That fumbling can indicate that the sentence isn't as straightforward as it should be and probably requires revision. It's not as likely to happen when we read in our heads, so reading out loud is a significant step toward tightening the writing.

Unnatural Dialogue

Readers will quickly pick up on stiff, pompous, or unnatural dialogue. Often, the dialog can seem a bit stilted to our modern ears, especially when reading historical fiction, where it's frequently just part of the book's charm. However, in most cases, it's just annoying. Reading aloud can help you identify places where your character's speech needs to be refined. 

The Pace Is Off

We've all done it: We hit a boring part of a book, and instead of reading through it, we just wanted to skip ahead to the more exciting chapter. This urge to skip sometimes entire chapters becomes more apparent when we read out loud because you can hear yourself skipping certain content. Identifying the issues in our writing is often the most challenging element in the writing process. Pacing, or lack thereof, is one of those sneaky errors that just seems to pop up out of nowhere. So when you slow down and read the words aloud, you can better see where the pace is dawdling or too abrupt.

Perplexing Paragraphs

When we're not skimming a paragraph, it is much easier to be analytical. Our aim as writers should always be clarity, even if it is delayed for a dramatic effect. Does this statement
 make senseWhile reading aloud, we can keep this question in mind, and it will become more apparent when something is obscure or unintelligible.

The benefits of reading your work aloud go on and on; this list is by no means all-inclusive. I highly recommend reading your whole manuscript out loud at some point. It doesn't have to be all at once or even consecutively. However, reading every word aloud during the editing process can help improve your story in so many ways. It is definitely worth the time and effort, as it ultimately leads to a more gratifying experience for your readers.

Piper is the award-winning author of The Country Girl Empress series. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookMedium, and Goodreads.
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