Listen to your words

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” —Truman Capote

Good creative writing has the power to be a full sensory experience—images, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures can come alive with the right word choices. However, when we read our work out loud, we hear the words. We hear the rhythmic flow, the inflection, the pauses, and the full stops. We hear the beauty of poetic language and the clunkiness of awkward wording.

Listen to your work. When you hear your own words being read out loud, you’ll be able to detect whether you have used enough details or too many, and if you’ve related exactly what you want to express.

So many times when I’ve received work to edit, I’ve often wondered if the writer took the time to read it out loud. The answer is always no. Sure, it’s my job to fix weak writing but what if these writers or students didn’t have anyone to help them out? They’d be presenting their work and not getting their meaning across as well as they could be.

If you can, print every important piece of writing you must submit. Your paragraphs may appear grammatically correct on the computer screen. Even so, take the next step and read every word deliberately that’s on paper, not the ones you think you inserted. If you can, have someone else read it aloud, too. The words are fresh to their eyes and ears and they will be able to see and hear something that’s not quite right. If they didn’t get your message, chances are, your intended audience won’t either. Revise and read it aloud again.

You’ll notice a difference in your writing when you take the time to listen to how it sounds!

“In conversation you can use timing, a look, an inflection. But on the page all you have is commas, dashes, the amount of syllables in a word. When I write, I read everything out loud to get the right rhythm.” —Fran Lebowitz