Do you read your manuscript out loud before you submit it to your best friend, family, beta readers, critique group, or agent? No? You should. I can’t tell you how many error I’ve caught in my own manuscripts even after numerous line-by-line revisions, even after numerous other people have read it, even after I thought it was ready to go out the door.
Reading Out Loud
For whatever reason reading your manuscript out loud allows you to not only catch blips in the conversations between your characters, but it also allows you to catch grammatical errors, syntax errors, and even loose ends that haven’t been dealt with or caught by your many readers. More importantly than any of those things, though, is by reading aloud, you will catch misspelled and misused words.
Spellchecker is Not Infallible
Wait, you may say. I ran spellchecker. I caught all the misspelled words. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Let’s say that spellchecker did catch all the misspelled words in your manuscript. It did not catch misused words.
When you read your manuscript out loud, you will catch the misused words, assuming of course, you know how to spell. If you don’t, add that to your list of things you can do to improve your writing. Do not, I repeat, do not rely on spellchecker to catch misused words because it can’t. It is your manuscript and you are responsible for every word in it.
Misused words generally occur in the guise of your brain knowing the word needed, but because of a misfired synapsis, you type a completely different word. The two words may be pronounced similarly. The bottom line, though, is that one is correct and the other is not.
I’ve recently read two books published by big name publishers. Both had misused words. One used the word “bases” when the author meant “basis.” The second used the word “fowl” when “foul” was needed. In the latter case, it resulted in an amusing sentence, i.e., “the fowl weather.” My imagination immediately went to the possibility of chickens raining down from the sky.
Stopping the Reader
If your goal is to stop your reader dead in her tracks and you misuse words, you will have reached your goal. However, if you wrote a book that you want the reader to read into the wee hours of the morning, without pause, then you missed your goal by a mile.
There are so many things that can and will stop a reader from reading any further, at least for a minute or two. In that minute or two, the spell is broken. You and your reader are no longer in sync. If there are too many of these missteps, the reader may set your book aside or throw in the trash.
Isn’t That the Editor’s Job?
It used to be that a good editor would catch every little error you managed to put into your manuscript. Those days, I fear, are long gone. Today, with the publishing world in a turmoil, facing financial troubles, and changing so quickly that many editors have been laid off, I suspect editors are hard pressed to spend the kind of time they need in order to catch every mistake we writers are capable of making.
Do Your Reader a Favor
Do yourself and your readers a service, read the manuscript out loud and catch all those misspelled words, all those loose ends you forgot, and, perhaps most importantly, the misused words.