The power of reading aloud

Following the kerfuffle (great word isn’t it?) about the typos in ‘Cruel Tide’ I decided to take more care with editing each chapter of the new book as I’m writing it, and leave fewer errors to picked up in proof reading later. I’ve found the best way to do that, if I can take the time, is to read the words out loud.

I guessed that this might help with the dialogue, giving it an air of authenticity as spoken rather than written words. But I’m finding that it helps all the text, not just the dialogue. Every sentence needs to have a shape and a flow, like poetry. Reading aloud brings better choices of words, and better decisions about the length of the sentence, and when, if and how to include subsidiary clauses. Sometimes a more complex sentence works, sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s reading aloud is really helpful.

With someone who writes as fast as I do, editing by reading aloud slows the process down, which I don’t always enjoy. But I’m sure that it’s my main contribution to the improvement of the quality of the text, and I must make myself do it. That’s a resolution to be returned to when I return home after a couple of weeks away in Sicily. While I’m here, I’m reading the Montelbano novels for the first time having seen most of the TV episodes. While I’m reading Camilleri’s rolling multi-clause sentences, Mick is reading Elmore Leonard. Both great story tellers but their styles couldn’t be more different: try them.

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