by Chuck Sebian-Lander
When you first bring a written draft of a paper to the Writing Center, your consultant will most likely ask you to read your paper out loud. Rest assured that your consultant has good reason to ask! Reading aloud not only keeps both you and your consultant directly engaged with your paper throughout the session, but it also lets you hear and correct your own mistakes. Most writers hear mistakes better than they see them, whether that mistake is a simple typo or a sentence isn’t as clear as it seemed while you were writing.
This technique is just as effective outside the Writing Center! Reading a paper out loud, even by yourself, is an excellent proofreading strategy. You may think that you don’t know enough about grammar rules or sentence structure, but you’ll be amazed by how quickly you can improve and clarify your sentences as you speak the words you’ve written. Here are some guidelines for proofreading out loud:
1. Read every sentence slowly. You’ll notice yourself instinctively clarifying sentences by adding or removing words. Make sure you read slowly enough to mark the differences between what you’ve written and what you’re saying!
2. Notice those points in a slowly-read sentence when you take a natural breath or pause. Add punctuation, such as a comma, to reflect that pause. Most grammatical rules on punctuation are meant to mimic the way English is naturally spoken – take advantage!
3. Think about the meaning of each sentence as you speak. If you realize that a sentence doesn’t make sense, consider how you would explain the meaning of that sentence to a friend, and rewrite the sentence using that explanation. If you don’t understand something you’ve written, it’s not likely your professor will, either!
Writing is all about communication; as a proofreading strategy, reading out loud amplifies your knowledge of writing conventions through your natural ability to speak with a clear meaning in mind. Whether you’re inside or outside of a Writing Center session, reading aloud can be an invaluable way to build more confidence in what you’ve written.