Blue Water Writing: The Read-Aloud Review

Long before computers, tablets, and phones, writers wrote and edited on paper and with a pencil.  Pulling sheets through rubber rollers, dabbing glue on drying ink, and jabbing at springy keys, typing was a laborious affair. Unable to rely on spelling and grammar checks, the typewriter was reserved for final drafts only. Under these hostile conditions, writers identified issues with language by subjecting their texts to Read-Aloud Reviews.

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Using spoken presentations to check a text helped authors back in the day address problems with clarity, syntax, and diction. 
Alison Davis’ article on the Read Aloud and a recent discussion by The Writing Center praise the strategy as an editing tool. At The Write Practice, McGann takes it to another level and proclaims that the Read-Aloud will change a writer’s life. As I recently constructed an audiobook of my novelette, There’s a War on Here”, I stumbled across this editing method. 

Under the impression that the text was clear and concise, I pressed the record button and began narrating. When I came across awkward expressions or ill-fitted sentences, I stopped, fixed them, and re-recorded. As I listened to the spoken story, I noticed overused words, and again, I stopped, edited, rewound, and narrated a clean text.

When I started the audiobook, I’d thought that the manuscript was free from language issues. Each time that I edited, these snags went unnoticed. If it wasn’t for the narrating and listening process, I’d never have seen the errors. Much of the time and energy that I’ve put into editing over the years could have been saved if I simply applied this procedure.

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Editing is visual. Language is pictorial. The written word uses optics. The Read-Aloud Review examines writing through an additional, auditory sense and accesses a different part of the brain. Editing through speaking and listening – instead of looking – expanded the scope of my awareness. Whether with recording software, text-to-voice apps, or simply my own voice, the Read-Aloud Review, as McGann so enthusiastically claims, is actually changing my writing life.