The Benefits of Reading Your Work Aloud

Do you ever hear advice and discard it because you don’t understand why you would do that?

For me, one of those pieces of seemingly pointless advice was to read your work aloud. I didn’t understand what I would gain from an exercise that would take much longer than just reading the way I usually do.

Well, last week I decided to try it. I can’t say it caused me to make sweeping changes. But I did figure out why it’s beneficial, and so I’m going to share my experience in case any of you are on the fence about reading aloud.

Point of view. My work-in-progress is written in alternating points of view, so reading it aloud was extremely helpful in keeping those voices distinct. I noticed turns of phrase or words that sounded out of place for a particular character. For example, half of my WIP is set on another planet, so Earth-based metaphors wouldn’t be relevant there. When I heard the words in addition to seeing them, I could see more clearly that they didn’t fit the character.

Dialogue. As with point of view, dialogue needs to be unique to each character. Often I would read something and think, “Character A wouldn’t say that, but Character B would,” or vice versa. And within a scene, I could tell if the characters sounded too similar.

Repeated words. Although I have a pretty good eye for noticing repeated words or phrases, reading aloud helped in that I’d notice if I’d said something a lot. Maybe the phrases weren’t on the same page or even in the same chapter, but they were more noticeable out loud. I also caught a number of things I’d have one character think or say and then a different one would think or say something similar, so that repetition became a voice issue.

Flow. Often things that look fine on the page don’t sound as strong when you say them out loud. Sometimes I’d read something that looked perfectly fine but sounded awkward. Even if the book is never read aloud to kids or put into audiobook form, I’d still like for it to flow.

So, those are the benefits I discovered, and I’ll definitely do this again. Do you read your work aloud? What benefits have you discovered?

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About Michelle I. Mason

I'm a full-time writer, focusing mainly on middle grade and young adult fiction with some freelance PR writing and editing on the side. I'm also a wife, mom, Christian, violinist, avid reader and St. Louis Cardinals fan. And I watch way too much TV.
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9 Responses to The Benefits of Reading Your Work Aloud

  1. Julie Grasso says:

    Hi Michelle, I had this advice also from a Manuscript Assessment service and I think it is the best advice I have had so far. I try to read aloud when I am at the draft ready to send to Beta readers and then again at the final proof. I do find that doing it too often makes you rush so I save it for when I feel it’s getting polished, and then of course I realise it’s not polished at all, lol the great benefit if Read Aloud. Cheers Julie

    • That’s a good point about how many times to do it. I hadn’t considered that yet. This first time was after I’d made revisions from one round of readers. I think it would be a good idea to do it again before I start querying.

  2. Andrea says:

    Michelle, I’ve done this too, and been a little surprised at how beneficial it can be. I got a different perspective on my story, hearing it and saying it, doing some rewrites to improve the flow. It also helped me catch some places where there were leaps in logic.

  3. I find reading my work aloud very helpful for many of the same reasons you mention. It is amazing how repeat words stand out more. It also helps me notice when things might be confusing or wording seems off because I have to slow down to read aloud and when I read silently I go too fast to notice.

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