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  • Writer's pictureRachel Paige

Let the Robot Read

One of the biggest editing tips I can give is read your work aloud. It's easy. There's no reason not to do it.

When it's your own work, it's easy to miss mistakes when you revise. You know what you meant to say, so your brain will automatically correct all the typos and errors. Reading aloud forces you to slow down and look at each word, so you're more likely to see what's wrong with it. This not only helps with typos like if vs. of or verbs in the wrong tense, it'll also help you find the parts that are tricky to read. If you stumble over it, the readers will too, even though it's in their heads.

This is useful even if you've already done careful revision. You'd be surprised how many errors you'll find. I read a chapter from Chaos in G Major aloud after revising it several times. I'd looked at these pages so much I was sure they were error-free. But when I read aloud, I noticed Sam was referred to as Ben for three pages. No one in the novel is named Ben. No one was ever going to be named Ben. But my brain had corrected it until I slowed down.

It also helps you catch repetition. I became aware of this when reading chapter ten of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, which is linked on the resources page. It stressed watching out for the repetition of words as well as the repetition of ideas. Even if it's phrased different, don't repeat a concept. Two sentences don't need to say the same thing. (See what I did there). It also talked about similar words or the same word used in a different context. The book uses the example "the loud spring of her bedsprings." That looks like two different words, but it doesn't sound like it.

Then there's dialogue. So important. I cannot tell you how important it is to read your dialogue aloud. Dialogue sounds great and realistic in your head when you're writing it. But try reading it aloud and you'll probably find that it's stiffer or blander than you thought.

Reading aloud helps you notice if all your characters talk the same way or use the same sentence patterns. It can help you realize that the conversation is boring, dragging on, or unnecessary. Here's a hint: if you get tired of reading the conversation aloud, your readers will get tired of reading it in their head.

The only problem with reading your own work with your own voice is that you still aren't objective. You know that your character is supposed to be angry or emphasize a certain word, so you're going to read it that way. But that doesn't mean your reader will.

I recommend using the read aloud feature on Microsoft word or another similar program. Personally, I use Word, so I'll talk about that one. It's under the review tab. You can choose between three voices and change the speed. They're not always great with names, so if you write fantasy... oof. They also struggle with homographs like read or read and lead or lead (you know what I mean). But other than that, the robots are great.

The voice is very monotone, which is a little painful to listen to, but it also means it isn't adding any infections or emotion that you're assuming the reader will put in. If the words aren't conveying the emotion you wanted when the robot reads, it isn't the robot's fault. It's the words you picked. The importance of this is talked about in the first chapter of Stein on Writing, also linked on the resources page.

If the words are wrong, you need to revise the sentence so the words convey the emotion without needing your voice. Hint: the solution is not to add a bunch of italics. Pick a stronger word, play with the punctuation, or add action that gives insight into the character's mental state.

Let the robot of your choice read the entire work and watch as it does. I'm telling you, errors will pop up like you wouldn't believe. You'll cringe at emotionless sections or unintentional rhymes. Repetition will smack you in the face. It's beautiful.


Do you read your work aloud? Have you tried using a read aloud feature? What did you notice?

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