about /contributor / title / genre / course / search / program in writing & rhetoric / sunysb home page


Reading Your Paper Aloud

Assignment Summary

When revising your paper, you should always read it aloud. When reading your paper aloud, you should:

•read very, very slowly. Rushing may get this over with faster, but reading too quickly won't give you a sense of the "sound" of your piece.

•read loudly (no whispering!) and enunciate clearly (no mumbling!), as if you were giving an important public speech. Reading too quietly or not articulating clearly enough will make reading aloud useless. If your reading starts to sound like a robotic, monotone drone (ever hear Ben Stein's voice?), you won't notice any of the problem areas because everything will sound the same: boring.

•not worry about sounding pompous, pretentious, or silly; no one else (ideally) is listening. That won't be true today, of course, where the whole class will be listening, but most of the time, you should read your paper aloud by yourself, where fear of the embarrassing situation that will occur if someone overhears you reading it will not be a distraction.

•speak your text exactly as it is written, as if it were someone else's writing; don't make changes or fill in gaps as you go to make it sound smoother. You want to hear messy spots loud and clear. They should sound jarring, off; that's the point!

Ölisten as you are reading for spots that sound awkward, not as good as they could sound, more complex than is necessary, less detailed than they need be, etc. Remember, it wonít help you to ignore them or think, "Ah, thatís not so bad, really." If you notice a problem spot, you should address it. The most common problem is over-complication, saying something in an unnecessarily complex way, such as, "There are a series of interlocking and interesting passages where the author's usage of pathos reveals itself to the reader as he/she reads and expresses the deep, emotional sentiments the writer uses through pathos, the use of an emotional appeal." In these situations, you have to find the simplest, most direct way of saying what you want to say.

•mark those areas that demonstrate any of those problems. Underline or circle them, but donít interrupt your reading to correct them now.

•go back to these spots later on. Reread them, figure out the problem (is it a matter of wording, or is there some unnecessary/missing content?), then try to amend it. Think about what material you need to add or, if the problem is wording, jot down different ways you could rephrase the sentence/passage. Go with the one that is most understandable.

•do this more than once, several times, if you can. Ideally, you should read your paper aloud each time you make major revisions. You might read individual sections (especially important ones, like your thesis or introduction) more than a dozen times. That's not being obsessive; it's being concerned about your work. Keep in mind that most seemingly "effortless" pieces of writing, even those written in very casual, conversational style, probably involved many revisions and rewordings.

Instructor's Comments

genre all
course WRT 101 and up
activity type individual revision exercise
skills analysis, audience awareness, holistic revision
duration n/a
draft of essay
contributor: Ryan Calvey