Read Your Work Out Loud

The place I tutor at always has our student read their writing out loud. Some people fight us; others have no problem with it. Generally speaking, a student isn’t able to get out of this.

Why do we inflict this sort of torture on people?

A lot of errors get caught when you read out loud—way more than if you merely read your work again and again (and again and again). Because you know what you’re trying to say, you’ll read what you think is there rather than what you actually wrote.

While that’s still a possibility when reading out loud, the chances are much smaller because you’re now working more parts of your brain. Not only are you reading what’s on the page (or screen), but you’re also having to transform those thoughts into speech.

Basically, there are more points for your brain to realize that something is amiss.

You can also have a friend listen to you read it and have them tell you when what you’re saying isn’t making sense (or isn’t what’s written). As a tutor, we act as the “friend” in this scenario by telling our students when something is off.

Most of the students I’ve worked with will find mistakes on their own by reading out loud. The most common mistakes they find are typos and sentences that “don’t sound good.” The flow they thought was there no longer works once they try putting everything together, and usually that’s a good indication that what they wrote isn’t grammatically correct.

Sometimes it’s easier than a grammatical mistake because there’s simply something extra (information-wise) that makes the sentence bulky or awkward, but most of the time the grammar is wrong.

If the student hadn’t read their work out loud, they wouldn’t have found that mistake.

Just like when my mom used to have me read backwards to find misspellings, reading your work out loud will help you find words that are wrong, missing, or shouldn’t be there.

Granted, this isn’t a catch-all technique, but what really is? This is absolutely something to add to your toolbox of editing techniques. I like to collect editing and writing tips, and this is one I never would have learned if I didn’t get my tutoring job.

I also wouldn’t have learned about printing out your work if it wasn’t for this position, but I did already know about changing the font.

What tips for editing have you learned from your work or non-writing hobbies?

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