QueryTracker Blog

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Editorial Tool: Read Out Loud

One of the best self-editing tips I can give is to read your manuscript out loud.  It feels silly, I know, but the benefit outweighs the awkwardness.  

Our mind often compensates for errors.  When reading, mistakes are missed because the brain anticipates patterns and we correct inconsistencies automatically.  Reading out loud forces the reader to slow down to the rate of speech, which helps identify errors.  

Read the words inside the triangle below silently. 

Did you spot the error?  Your chance of spotting the duplicate "the" is higher if you read it out loud.  This kind of mistake happens all the time in manuscripts, primarily because of cutting and pasting.  It is the type of error for which the mind compensates.

Check this out:
Aoccdrnig to a rseearch sutdy at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny improamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.  
Could you read that?  I had no trouble.  Amazing what our mind can do, huh?

For me, the biggest benefit to reading my manuscript out loud is spotting unnatural or rough sentences.  The rhythm and inflection in my head is different than that of the spoken word.  Things that seem natural, particularly in dialogue, often are stilted when read aloud.  

I also recommend having someone else read the manuscript to you.  Because the characters in one of my novels are teens, I had teens read it to me.  Talk about a wake-up call to bad dialogue!  Mercy.  

I like this editorial tool so much, I read almost everything I write out loud now--manuscripts, letters, emails, blog posts...  It not only helps me spot errors, it annoys my family!  Who could ask for more?  *wink*

Mary Lindsey writes paranormal fiction for children and adults. Prior to attending University of Houston Law School, she received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Drama.

Mary can also be found on her website.


Emily Cross said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog!! i found this site through snark victim's blog.
anyhoo, this is really interesting, we did a study on this in my undergrad psych course. basically like our vision (when looking around our environment) our minds fill in the gaps and correct mistakes.

I totally agree about the reading out loud edit tool. Its amazing the difference it makes to your writing!

Thanks for the tip!

Lady Glamis said...

Ah, I'm married to an actor, so reading aloud happens A LOT around here....

But I have yet to read my entire manuscript out loud. I kind of mutter stuff out loud as I am reading. I think that kind of helps!

Thanks for this AWESOME TIP!

Suzette Saxton said...

Mary, you make your posts so much fun! I read every word - as usual. :)

Mary Lindsey said...

Hey, Emily! I love Miss Snark's First Victim Blog. Authoress is the best!

And thanks for visiting us again, Lady Glamis. Hubby's an actor--so cool!

Happy you dropped in, Suz. Thanks.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I found this tip works really well with dialogue. Cut out everything but the dialogue (this includes tags and physical beats) and read it out loud. It's an eye-opening experience.

Christine Fonseca said...

This is such a great post...I completely agree with it. Great job QTer's...as usual