For Cryin’ Out Loud, Read It Out Loud!

I could never be a speed reader, although I’d love to have that ability. When I read, I have a mental voice. In my mind’s ear, I can hear the words being spoken. That’s a major mental block to speed reading. However, it gives me a powerful tool.

When I read, I’m in tune to the beat and rhythm of the English language. Yes, every language has one. Maybe that’s why I can speak Spanish and French and fool a native for a few minutes. It’s the beat, rhythm, and voice inflections, that make English so powerful (Yes, I’m perfectly aware of Chinese having those qualities as well). In English, you not only have the stressed syllable in a word, but sometimes there are also a second stressed and a half-stressed syllables as well.


Photo: Ky Olsen used under creative commons license.

Of course there are numerous books out there concerning self-editing that would make a writer start cutting away. Yes, you should have those guides; I also have some on my desk. However, be careful. You could be destroying a beautiful melody for the sake of mechanics.

There’s a member of my critique group who has a magnificent and beautiful prose style. It’s a treat to hear her work read out loud. The flow reminds me of gentle ocean waves kissing the shoreline. I can see an editor shredding her work for the sake of word count. After all, I’ve read that it’s a rule of thumb to cut out twenty percent of an Author’s draft. I know there’s a certain wisdom in that attitude. After all, not all authors can do what she can do. However, the thought of her prose getting wrecked for mechanical sake makes me cringe.

Also, in my critique group, the presenting author usually chooses another member to read it out loud to the group. I can’t stress the need and practicality of this practice enough. You’ll get to hear how a reader approaches your work. If you don’t have anyone available, convert it to a PDF format and let adobe read it for you. You will not get the benefit of spotting where a reader stumbles over an awkwardly constructed sentence, but at least you’ll get to hear the beat and rhythm of your prose and the quality of your dialog.

7 thoughts on “For Cryin’ Out Loud, Read It Out Loud!

  1. Why do I keep coming back here? I know its because you always say something that strikes a nerve with me. Your article reminded me of my tour of the Detroit Free Press where I started working there. I saw people actually speed reading. It was amazing. I never saw anything like that before. That was an amazing career for me working there and I will never forget the things I learned. OOps! Getting back to your post. hmmmmmm!!
    Very informative.


  2. I don’t think editors automatically set out to cut a manuscript by 20%, but I can say from personal experience that most authors would benefit from doing one pass simply to look for extraneous words. Well written prose is a thing of beauty, but sadly, too many writers think they are being “literary” when they use three words where one will suffice.


    • Agreed. However, some writers can do it, and do it well.
      I have heard and read it in places that the 20% is a “rule of thumb”. Every editor may not be applying it, but I’ve heard it from different sources, so I assume that some do.


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