By Annette Lyon
A couple of months ago, my sixth-grade son wrote a report for school. He drafted it, revised it, read it over several times, tweaked it again, and printed it out. Then I handed it to him from the printer and demanded, "Read it out loud to yourself."
He gave me a confused look. "Uh, why?"
"Because you’ll catch things you didn’t on the computer screen."
"But I read it like ten times before I printed it," he insisted. "It’s just the way I want it."
"Humor me," I said, shoving the pages into his chest. I almost reminded him that I’ve been writing since before I met his father. That my fifth novel will be published in a few months, that I’ve sold over forty articles, won numerous writing awards, and that I’m a professional editor.
Still, to him I’m just "Mom" and he’s almost twelve. He’s obligated to roll his eyes.
Even so, after an exaggerated sigh, he read the report aloud. You can probably guess what happened. To his surprise—but not mine—he found about ten things he wanted to change.
Some were clunky phrasing that he stumbled over once he tried to speak a sentence. Others were typos that somehow his eye had scanned over on the computer screen but jumped out on the hard copy. Others were stylistic things he hadn’t noticed until he saw the words in a different way—on the page.
After attending a critique group for well over seven years, I’ve learned the magic of doing this with my own work week after week.
No matter how careful you are reading your piece on the computer screen, it’s just not enough. There’s something powerful about printing it onto paper and reading it on the page.
And there’s something even more powerful about speaking the words aloud—hearing yourself saying the words, trying them out on your tongue. Discovering when they flow and when they absolutely do not.
You can do this with a critique group or by yourself. Print it and read your work aloud. Do it religiously.
And if it helps, go ahead and close the door so none of your kids end up rolling their eyes at your latest weirdness!