Composing Great Essays: Reading Your Work Aloud


Editing Carefully is Invaluable

When you are putting the finishing touches on a great essay, you absolutely cannot skip the editing stage. Even the most talented writers make mistakes, especially in the heated, passionate moments of composition. You should always set aside a few hours to a few days that are strictly devoted to the editorial process. Strong editing can elevate an essay from a mediocre, if adequate work, to a piece of true brilliance. A careful and thorough editorial job can make the difference between a B and a sterling A plus.

How to Edit? Read Aloud!

One fantastic way to improve your editing skills is learning to read your work aloud. Many famous and successful authors learned to edit their own works by reading them aloud. In fact, many fine writers honed their literary skills by making absolutely certain that their texts sounded right on the tongue. Authors as diverse as Homer, Freud, Joyce, and Faulkner all developed their primary drafts verbally, and it is apparent in the remarkable quality and deep, rich wit of their work.

How Can Reading Aloud Improve Your Papers?

But even if you are not a literary genius, you can improve your prose by editing aloud. Reading audibly has been scientifically demonstrated to slow down the reader’s processing speed and focus their attention more directly on the words. When you read more slowly and pay closer attention to your work, you are vastly more likely to detect errors and think of the many ways in which your essays could be improved.

Reading aloud can also help you detect areas where the phrasing is awkward, or where the overall layout or organization of your paper could be usefully altered. Often a sentence reads as technically ‘correct’ on a grammatical level, but sounds uncomfortable, stilted, or overly complex when said verbally. As you read, take note of any such awkward passages and vow to edit them so they sound better.

How Do You Edit Aloud?

Editing verbally can be quite easy. Find a quiet and private place, and take a hard copy of your essay. Stand up and speak in a loud, clear voice, as if you were delivering a speech at a competition, or lecturing a class. Speak slowly but naturally, and try to make the essay sound as conversational and casual as possible. Do not try to sound as if you are reading. Add emotional inflections and useful pauses to clarify your prose. Listen for any strange transitions or dull sections.

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