Do you remember in school when a teacher suggested you read your paper out loud to catch errors? Even if you don’t, you can be certain the teacher gave that advice to someone. We gripped our papers and belted out the product of our immature penmanship and stopped short as we mouthed a sentence nothing short of nonsensical.
Whoa! Did I write that? At least that was what I was usually thinking; it happened to me all the time. Read the work out loud and you catch errors. An important lesson from our formative years, but what if that same good habit has now made your writing shall we say ineffective? Or maybe it sucks even?
Let’s distinguish between the writer’s voice and tedious prose, which had been read aloud. They are different. The writer’s voice cannot be distilled from their written product. It refers to an inseparable element of style, your style. Each one of us combines syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, and dialogue uniquely in our work. All writing bears its maker’s mark and the effect: our writer’s voice.
When a reader recites a work out loud, their vocal inflections and pauses reflect their physical voice. For that reason, a poem such as Edgar Allen Poe’s Raven sounds distinct depending on the reader. It fails to impact equally when Christopher Lee blasts it in baritone as when your seven-year old cousin reads it for the first time. But there’s good news: you can develop your writer’s voice however you chose. Your physical voice you’ll just have to live with.
The problem arises when a writer grips page or computer screen and employs their physical voice to add flourish and nuance to their work. Then satisfied with how it sounded when they read it, they unwittingly proceed. To be effective writers, we must be aware that every reader varies in tones, inflections, and pauses when they orate. We can’t depend on how our work sounds when we read it audibly to ourselves. Avoid this grievous mistake by:
1. Have someone else read your writing to you
2. Imagine someone else wrote it as you read
3. Speed read it like you just don’t care
4. Impersonate someone else as you read it (Nixon or Betty Boop?)
But just awareness your of this common mistake will improve your writing.
If you have ideas for other ways to avoid this mistake or experiences with the physical voice drowning out your writer’s voice, please comment.