Many struggling writers come to me asking what they can do to improve their writing. They continually face problems with sentence and paragraph structure as well as surface errors such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation. They know the basic rules of English and can often be very effective helping other writers revise their work but somehow manage to overlook the errors in their own drafts.
It is a common problem and the solution is a dirty little secret among writers. It is a dirty secret because it is so simple and writers often feel foolish practicing the method -- read your writing out loud.
The human brain is very sophisticated. When you read to yourself then it will automatically make corrections for you. This means that you will read the words, structure and meaning you intended to create whether or not you actually achieved your goal. However when you read out loud your brain cannot trick your ears and you will hear awkward sentence structure. The process of reading out loud will also allow your eyes to catch surface problems that you might skim over when reading to yourself.
While employing the simple technique of reading your work out loud to catch your writing errors can help you improve your work, it is only one technique. Often the root cause of many writing problems lies with the writer's individual writing process -- or the lack of one. Spending time developing a process for your writing is the single most effective way to improve the quality of writing experience as well as the work it produces.
Even after you have developed your personal writing process you must also allow yourself time to brainstorm, write, revise and edit. Too often the reason that revision and editing are not effective is because the writer attempts these processes too close in time to the initial draft. Allow yourself at least a day but preferably longer between drafts, revision and editing and you will be amazed at the results you can achieve.
Today most writers tend to draft electronic versions of their paper. I do so myself. However I know that I can more effectively revise and edit on the printed page. When I complete a draft I print it out and then set it aside to let it ferment. After returning to the project I am able to bring a fresher eye due to our time apart as well as different perspective because the words are in print rather than on screen. Give it a try and see how it works for you.
The technique of reading your work out loud may be simple but it is extremely effective and employed by writers at all levels and of all ages, however it works best when you combine it with an effective writing process, allow enough time for an adequate drafting and revision process, and revise and edit drafts on the printed page. You can become a better writer if you employ these simple strategies and tips.