And I don’t just mean making these blog posts.
Like most writers I know, I read my writing out loud in an attempt to hear clunky phrasing and ineffective word choice. It’s evidently a technique I find useful because I wrote a post about it nearly four years ago.
But now I’m beginning to wonder about its usefulness.
The point, of course, is to catch the problems so the reader doesn’t have to deal with them or misunderstand the writing. The trouble with this is that I know the meaning and I know the intonations that need to be used. I know which words need emphasis, which should be whispered, where meaningful pauses belong, where a character’s delivery should be racing along. I know all of this because I wrote the words, so my out loud reading is prejudiced to my foreknowledge and intent. I read it the way I want it to be read, and perhaps I don’t catch the flaws that would misdirect the reader.
Does this make sense?
Granted, when I read my drafts aloud, I generally do make changes, so I suppose I it does work for me. Perhaps the better solution would be to have someone else read it aloud as I listen, to hear how it comes out to a naive reader. Then I would know where and when I need to improve the wording to get my intent across. (And then I should have some other person read it aloud and see how my “improvements” worked.)
And this leads to another question I’ve been asking myself lately. What about italics? Do you have a policy about using them? I try to limit their use, but there are times when they give the wording exactly the right emphasis. It seems almost like a form of punctuation. You wouldn’t use a simple period when you want to use an exclamation point. So why not use italics when you want to express some nuance?
Yes, I can see how this could be overused, just as too many exclamation points could make the writing comical and the emphasis diluted. And I suppose some by-the-book purist would claim that if the writing is done right, you wouldn’t need italics to pinpoint emphasis. But I’m not sure I believe that.