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Weekly Helping Hand: Listen to your Writing

This weekly post will highlight a writing prompt, helpful video, quick "life-hack", or links to help with a variety of activities including writing, parenting, pets, healthy choices, and more. These pint-sized blogs are short enough to enjoy with your favorite cup of coffee or tea in the morning.

When you've finished your cup, consider sharing your own helping hands (tips, tools, trade-secrets) in the General Discussions forum.


This week's Helping Hand: Listening to your writing.

It sounds odd doesn't it? Written or typed words on a page or screen don't actually speak or make sounds. Well, that's not completely true, and any writer would agree. Words have power, emotions, and a life of their own. But when it comes to writing a literary work, either a novel or a poem, we sometimes forget to sit back and listen to what they've put on the page. This is especially difficult for someone who struggles with learning difficulties such as Dyslexia.

A quick and easy trick I have discovered to help with my own writing is to stop and listen on occasion, literally. I highlight a paragraph that I'm struggling with on my laptop, or an entire chapter that I want to edit. Then I use the "Read Aloud" feature (in MS Word*) and sit back with my chai tea to listen. There are a number of other text-to-speech programs, apps, and widgets out there you can use if you don't have MS Word. Simply do a quick Google search to find one that works for you.

Once you find a program or app that works, use it to hear how your writing sounds. The Human brain is programmed to learn from multiple sensory inputs, not just the words we read in a book. Going back through a section of your draft and reading along while "Siri" reads it out loud gives you a deeper connections and understanding of your work. You may find that although you were grammatically correct, that sentence just doesn't sound great. Or you might discover that you accidentally switched a few words around or missed a conjunction here or there. Thus, completely changing the original meaning of the section (I'm guilty of this).

Have your computer re-read a passage back to you, or ask a friend to read it out loud. Either way, take a step back from hours of writing. Adding another sense to your work by listening to it will give you a better feel for what you are trying to create. This read-along technique is not new, and has been used for decades to help individuals with learning difficulties. As a writer, it is a wonderful tool that's easy to use and very helpful.


* Steps to use MS Word's Read Aloud feature:

  1. Highlight the test, passage, or chapter you want to listen to (I call it "voice editing").

  2. Click on the "Review" tab at the top of the window.

  3. Click on the "Read Aloud" button.

  4. Enjoy a robotic voice reading your work back to you. You can change the sound, speed and volume in the voice settings.

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