Copywriters, screenwriters, and novelists may take unique approaches to their writing, but there’s one step of the writing process that is the same for all writers: editing your own work.
After furiously typing out that last page of copy for your client, or final draft of your short story, you paste it into Grammarly with a successful shoulder-shimmy. But suddenly, your document is slowly overtaken with red and yellow lines, shrinking your ego down to its normal size once again.
How were these critical errors missed? If you’re anything like me, your thought process moves much more quickly than your fingers can keep up with from time to time. There’s something about conveying meaning into words that can do that to you. Whether you’re a seasoned copywriter or a freelance journalist, there’s one trick that can serve you when proofreading any form of writing you take on: reading your piece aloud.
You Can’t Always Trust Your Mind
So what is it that allows our brains to skim over mistakes time and time again? As much as you want to believe otherwise, the brain has a tendency to see what it wants to see; not what’s actually written out on paper.
As psychologist Tom Stafford explained to Wired:
When we’re proofreading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey. Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent. The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.
So what is it about hearing your own words out loud that allows you to catch otherwise overlooked mistakes?
Reading aloud helps you find grammar mistakes. As you read aloud, you recite your text as you would conversationally to another person, allowing you to pick up on grammatical errors, run-on sentences, and areas of the text that may require different punctuation.
Reading aloud helps you find awkward holes and awkward placement. Writers are bound to have favourite words they use to fill in holes; or in copywriting, to drive a particular action. However, these words can become repetitive quickly, causing sentences, or your entire text, to sound awkward and tired. Reading your text out loud allows you to hone-in on those words and create text that flows naturally.
This trick will not only help you find flaws in your own writing, but help you develop a different relationship with your unique writing style, your voice, and your tone. Read your piece out loud, find your weaknesses, and discover just how much your words can accomplish.