Thursday, 3 April 2008

The First Sign of Madness!

Firstly, apologies for not posting anything over the past few days, but a family member has been in hospital and I've spent a lot of time visiting them recently, as well as doing some interesting eavesdropping!

Many of you will know that I'm a great advocate of reading your work out aloud when you've finished a piece of work. It's the best way of identifying mistakes! One of my students, Lee Davis said "I left it for a while and then re-read it. You were right - I spotted a few mistakes and corrected them".

But why does reading your words out aloud work? In my experience it's because when we read silently to ourselves, our brains know what the words SHOULD say, and so this is how it interprets them. However, when we read work out aloud, we are using a different part of the brain. We tend to read more slowly, if we are speaking at the same time, which gives the brain time to spot the mistakes too.

Reading work out aloud helps you to pick up:
  • spelling errors,
  • grammatical errors,
  • confusing or long-winded sentences,
  • repetitions.

Speaking our work out loud means that our ears are also listening to what is being said, which is why this is a great way of picking up repetitions. These are words or phrases that we use repeatedly without realising. Phrases like "I would suggest that ..." or "don't forget to visit ..." don't seem bad, but when a reader has read them for the eighth time in the last 500 words, it can become annoying! It also helps me to identify words which I use time and time again, because they form part of my character. One of my pet words is 'just' and it's not until I read my work out, that I start to 'hear' them and then start deleting them!

Ultimately, if our work is easy to say, then it is also easy to read.

I also urge those of you who are members of a writers' circle to read your work out aloud BEFORE you go to a meeting. All too often we produce work to read out, but the first time we do so is at the actual meeting. Then we end up stumbling over words that don't sound right, or apologising because that sentence doesn't make sense, and in the end it becomes an ordeal. If your read your work out loud several times before you need to, you will have confidence in your written work, and that confidence will come across when it's time for you to perform.

Always put work aside for at least a day if you can, longer if possible. Move onto another project, and let the current one 'settle'.

So make the rest of the household think you've gone completely off your head, and start talking to yourself. It may well be the first sign of madness, but it's the first sign of a responsible, professional writer too! Remember to listen to what you are saying though!

Good luck.

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