Why Talking to Yourself Will Make You a Better Writer
This is the first of three posts that look at simple steps you can take to being a better writer.
Before you go out in the morning, I bet you take a quick look in the mirror. You check that there’s no dried toothpaste stuck on your face, or stray toast crumbs and that you look like an adult who’s thoughtfully chosen what to wear rather than thrown on the nearest thing you grabbed from your closet.
Always check in the mirror
Many of us produce writing without “checking in the mirror.” With writing, that’s the equivalent of smudged lipstick or leftover shaving cream, and text that’s as tired as the T-shirt you love but really know is past it.
You can avoid this with one simple method. Talk to yourself.
I don’t mean chattering to yourself in the supermarket. Then folks will think that you’ve gone bananas by the bananas. What I mean is reading aloud what you’ve written before you send it to your audience.
There are many benefits to this.
Hear your words
Creating writing is one thing and often when we’re writing we’re absorbed with the question “Does this make sense to me?” A much more important question is “Does this make sense to my audience?”
Reading your writing aloud lets you create the voice that your audience will hear when they read your words. We write from a quiet, thoughtful place but when your audience reads your writing it has a sound, courtesy of the voice we all have in our head. And it’s by reading it aloud that you actually hear your words. This lets you know if it makes sense, like you thought it did when you put the words on the page.
You also become aware if you’re indulging in runaway train syndrome (more on this in next week’s article) and if your mass of words need chopped up. Or re-arranged. Or simplified. And if that bit in the middle needs more work because it just isn’t saying what you want it to say.
Pernickety about punctuation
When you read aloud it shines a spotlight on your use of punctuation. When you speak your words you’ll find places when you need to take a breath. Is there a form of punctuation at these points in your writing? If not, there needs to be.
Just as restaurants serve different courses on different plates, punctuation presents your ideas in an attractive layout. Writing without clear punctuation is like getting your starter, main course and dessert all heaped on the one plate. It makes your message messy.
Punctuation tightens and lightens your writing. It lets in fresh air. It gives your audience the space and time to understand what you’ve written in digestible pieces. It shows that you care about their experience and that you’ve taken the time to check the quality of your writing.
So, before you hit the send button on what you’ve written, check in the mirror. And have a word or two with yourself.