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Find writing rhythm by going into revision mode

As a journalist, I discovered a good way to revise copy is this two-step method. First I print out the pages (sorry trees) and read them to myself. Then I read them out loud.

Sure, I make edits when I read copy on my computer monitor, but when I print my pages, it’s as if I’m telling my brain to go into revision mode. I “see” things in a new way. And when I read my work aloud, I hear how the writing sounds — it helps me test the consistency of the narrative voice and hear how the sentences flow.

Our brains are exceedingly proficient at compensating for how something should read, making it easy for us to gloss over a typo or wrong word. This explains why you can ask five people to read your manuscript and still find that an error or three slipped through.

Read your printed copy out loud and to yourself for these benefits:

1. Catch mistakes in word choice and punctuation. For example, it’s easy to mix up words that are similar. Your brain thinks “peak” and your fingers type “peek.” I find that kind of typo jumps out at me as I read out loud. I also spot punctuation errors, such as misplaced commas, and I find it’s easier to see repeated words.

2. Detect passive sentence construction. The low energy of a passive sentence comes through when you hear it.

3. Hear your writing’s rhythm and voice. Smooth out awkward wording. If possible, record yourself so you can play it back and fully focus on how the sentences sound.

4. Spot logic errors. Discover sentences and scenes that are out of order.

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