Why Talking Aloud Improves your Writing

Are you writing a nonfiction book? Congratulations!

Maybe you’re thinking about it, but haven’t started yet. Here’s a tip that may help your writing and also contributes to the many other tasks of authoring, including nailing your title and subtitle, and even crafting your “elevator pitch”—your concise and intriguing description of what your book is about.

Say it Aloud.

Yes, talk to yourself.

As a professional writer, I have drafted speeches for all kinds of occasions, from welcoming the new CEO to roasting the departing one. One tactic I like to use is to say it aloud, not just in my head, but actually read what I write out loud. It’s a technique that screenplay and fiction writers use also for dialogue.

Of course, you think, this works for speeches and dialogue, but why would it help my nonfiction book? Because you want to develop a “voice” for your writing, a certain tone, and reading aloud what you write can help you achieve that.

Saying aloud what you’re writing can also help you overcome some common writing errors—it’s even a good way to catch typos! Saying it aloud, you’ll notice if any of these flaws are present:

  • Your sentences are too long,
  • Used passive voice,
  • You’ve overwritten a passage,
  • Too many $50 words, or
  • The piece is peppered with jargon

How your book’s title—and subtitle—sounds to the ear is important. You want people to pay lip service to your title, to tell their friends and family what a great book it is. Clever alliterations aside, it has to be fairly easy to say, not too long (if you have to stop for breath, it’s too long), and preferably not require explanations or spellings when you mention the title to a friend.

Your book’s cover is important (a post for another time) and you want people to be able to easily remember the title, if not the complete subtitle. What the book is about should be clear from the complete title—so you don’t get bonus points for clever. (Writer Seth Godin can get away with creating unusual, but always on-brand, titles such as Purple Cow or Meatball Sundae because his name sells books.)

A book title should be easy to say and remember. Tongue-twisting titles or titles with words that are difficult to pronounce may mean that people won’t talk about your book as readily. So give your title and subtitle the aloud test.

And, importantly, you need to be able to describe the book on Amazon, in email, via social, in just a few sentences. This nutshell description is your “elevator pitch.” You’ll want a few for different audiences and one for the back of the book. This is a promotional message but one that needs to capture the tone of the book. Again, being able to say it aloud is essential so that you’re ready when someone says, “what’s your book about?”

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