We writers refer to our writing personalities as voice, because readers “hear” us when they read our words. For the same reason, many of our writing mistakes can be corrected by simply listening to our own voices. With our ears.
You can write every word, sentence, and paragraph grammatically correctly, and still have errors in your manuscript. That’s why you must hear it. If it’s a short piece, ask someone to read it to you. Your kid could probably use the practice. If it’s long, read it aloud to yourself. And listen.
LISTEN FOR THESE COMMON MISTAKES
Inconsistent tone–switching mood or attitude without reason. This is usually caused by either
Not having a specific audience in mind. The words you whisper to your husband are not meant for your grandmother, and the shorthand slang you exchange with your bestie isn’t meant for your boss. Know your readers, and write for them only.
Not trusting your gut. Be yourself. Don’t overthink it. If you don’t trust yourself, you’ll end up saying something that doesn’t sound like you, and it will sound out of place in your writing.
Mismatched language–using language or vocabulary that doesn’t fit the situation. For example, writing fast-paced action, such as a horse race, using long, descriptive sentences, instead of quick sentences with active verbs. Stay in the moment.
Awkward cadence–using words or phrases that don’t naturally flow with ease. This one’s a little harder to catch by yourself, because you know what you meant to say. If you stumble over a sentence when reading aloud, take that to heart. If you have to read it more than once to understand, rewrite the sentence for better flow.
Alliteration–a string of words that repeats the same sound. These can sneak up on you, if you don’t read your work aloud, because repeating sounds are not always spotted with the eyes. Example: Chris cranked the boom box. The music of Queen echoed across the corridor.
Rhyme, near rhyme, and other sound-alikes.An unintended rhyme can turn a serious moment into silliness, and break the spell on your readers.
Tongue twisters. If you can’t say it, don’t write it.
Double entendre–words or phrases that can have more than one meaning, especially when one of those meanings is “naughty.” Example: Jenny wasn’t enjoying the fishing trip until Allen let her handle his pole.
Did I miss any? Do you already read your work aloud? Let us know how that’s working for you in the comment section. We’re all in this together. Oh, and by the way, isn’t my granddoggy Owen a handsome fellow?
Kathryn A. Frazier is a freelance copyeditor, proofreader, and writer. She lives in Tampa, Florida with her beloved family, Scruffy Dog and Valentino the Ridiculously Tiny Dog. It's hot there. And swampy. With gators. She's really brave.