The easiest trick to get your prose to read better

by | 10 Jul 2021

This week, I watched a live broadcast with two authors. She was just releasing an audiobook she had read herself. She said she had tripped over some sentences. He replied, “Writing to be read is different to writing to be read out loud.”

He was trying to make her feel better. But what he said has some truth to it. Some.

Writing to be read is different to writing to be spoken

Writing a book versus writing a speech, the rhythms and cadence of the prose are different. The sentences can be longer and the explanations deeper. The way you can set paragraphs is denser.

Writing a speech is more like writing a poem. Sentences are shorter. The rhythm of the lines is much more obvious because it will be spoken. What you say and how you say it is compressed because you only have minutes to get your point across. You don’t have time for a detailed examination.

Also, in a speech, the rhythms of rhetoric really resonate – just like that alliteration.

Writing to read is the same as writing to be spoken

However, these days most authors want to also release an audiobook version.

An author should read their book aloud before publishing it in print. You hear the rhythms and find the sentences that trip you up. Those sentences will be awkward for a reader and listener alike. As an editor doing a line edit, I always read a manuscript aloud. It helps me shape sentences and find typos I would miss otherwise.

Write your prose like it will be read aloud because it makes it read better, and it may well be read out one day.

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