Trick from the Editor's Hat

Trick from the Editor’s Hat: Read Aloud

You’re staring at a manuscript that you have spent countless hours, days, weeks, preparing for publication or submission. It’s as stellar as you can make it. Or is it?

Here is just one of the tricks that I occasionally pull out of my hat when editing. This technique is the best method of making dialogue sound natural and will pick up the awkward sentences faster than any other method. There are times when I use this technique while writing too. It is one of the best tricks one can have stashed under their hat.

Read Aloud

You can read a line over and over again, but you still don’t see the mistake. It’s something incredibly simple, like a missing “the”, but you still don’t see it. Our eyes filter what our minds see. The eyes make the corrections needed and hence our brains don’t register anything different. However, when we read something out, vocalize the line, our brains work differently. And guess what… That missing “the” becomes obvious.

Reading aloud is one of the best methods that any writer/editor could have stashed under their hat. So many things can be picked up when one hears it compared to reading it.

If you are editing dialogue, it is highly recommended to read the passage aloud. Put on an accent, pretend you’re the character. Feel free to add in the body actions too. You will be amazed with the number of writers that on first drafts spell out words in full, but when they speak the line, here comes the contraction. Or you’ll hear how an accented voice can be written, changing the order of the words.

In a long section of narrative prose, you’ll hear if a sentence is necessary or whether it can be rephrased to give it more impact. And don’t forget that you’ll hear all the awkward phrasings too.

Some people feel self-conscious by reading out their stories, even when they’re in the room alone. Read to your cat or dog. Read to the parrot, however, be careful if that bird is likely to mimic your awkward sentence. No doubt they’ll pick up on the one phrase that you didn’t want shared with your family and friends.

Of all my editing tricks, I would say this one is the one I use the most, on client’s work and my own. My brain processes audio so much better.

See other Tips and Tricks from the Editor.

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