A storyteller speaking to a crowd
A storyteller speaking to a crowd

Why Reading Your Copy Aloud Keeps Your Content Alive

Paul Kiernan

When you read your writing aloud, something magical happens: your words come to life.

One of the things I love so much about Shakespeare, particularly performing it, is how alive it is. The language is four hundred years old but still lives and breathes. When young actors say I hate Shakespeare or people say I don’t understand Shakespeare, I always say the same thing: Read it out loud and get up on your feet.

The first reason is that Shakespeare was never meant to be read; it was meant to be performed. So when you sit and read it, head hunched over, mind numb from all the ‘weird” words, you’re not approaching the way it was supposed to be approached. In Shakespeare’s time, only 30% of men and 10% of women could read. But what those people heard stayed with them.

His words, which are our words, are living things. Look at the way our language changes constantly. Every generation has words they’ve added to the human lexicon of language. Some of it is slang that eventually ends up in the mainstream; some of it, thankfully, doesn’t. But every tribe, gang, collection, and even neighborhood in the world adds to the languages we speak and understand.

This is not going to be a piece about the etymology of words, but what I’m getting at here is that language, the words we use, are not a one-off; they aren’t dead as soon as they hit the page. The words you use and the things you write are living and breathing, and I firmly believe if you want to write better copy and copy that resonates and makes people share the work, you should stop thinking that once the thing is published, it’s done. Once it’s published, that’s just the start.

In the digital age, where words are often crafted, published, and left to fend for themselves in the vast online universe, it's easy to forget that written content is not static. A blog post, an article, even a social media caption—they all have a life beyond the moment of publication. They can evolve, resonate differently with readers, and continue to engage long after hitting "publish." One powerful way to keep your content vibrant and impactful is by embracing a simple yet transformative practice: reading your copy aloud.

Giving Your Words a Voice

When you read your writing aloud, something magical happens: your words come to life. What seemed flawless on screen might stumble or soar when spoken. The rhythm, cadence, and flow become tangible. You hear the nuances that silent reading often misses—the awkward phrases, the moments where clarity falters, or where the tone doesn't quite match your intention.

A window with blue neon reading What is Your Story?

Enhancing Clarity and Flow

Reading aloud is a litmus test for clarity. It forces you to confront whether your sentences flow smoothly or stumble over themselves. Awkward constructions that seemed invisible before suddenly stand out, prompting revisions that enhance readability and comprehension.

Capturing Authentic Tone and Voice

Every piece of writing carries a tone—a personality that sets the mood and connects with readers on an emotional level. Reading aloud helps ensure your tone remains authentic and consistent throughout your piece. It's a gut check against unintended shifts in voice and a safeguard against monotony.

Engaging the Audience

Writing is fundamentally about communication, and reading aloud reconnects you with the essence of that process. It allows you to gauge how well your message resonates with your intended audience. Are your words inviting, informative, persuasive? Reading aloud helps you fine-tune your delivery for maximum impact.

Editing with Precision

Beyond the initial draft, reading aloud is a cornerstone of effective editing. It sharpens your ear for redundancy, clichés, and wordiness—all foes of concise, compelling writing. Each read-through offers fresh insights and opportunities to polish your prose until it shines.

Embracing Iteration and Evolution

Writing is iterative. Even after publication, your work can evolve based on feedback, new insights, or changes in context. Reading your content aloud at different stages—before publishing, after sharing, and periodically after that—encourages this evolution. It invites ongoing refinement and ensures that your content remains relevant and resonant with your audience.

A yellow school bus with Use Your voice spray painted in blue on the windshield

The Art of Living Writing

In digital content, where attention spans are fleeting and competition is fierce, the art of living writing—of keeping your content vibrant and impactful—is more critical than ever. Reading your copy aloud isn't just a mechanical exercise; it's a practice that imbues your words with vitality and ensures they continue to connect with readers long after they're written.

Connecting your body to your voice while reading aloud creates a dynamic synergy that enhances your writing process. Movement isn't just about physical activity; it's a conduit for expressing your words with clarity and conviction. When you stand or walk while reading, you engage more fully with your breath and vocal resonance, which affects how your words are articulated and perceived. This embodied approach helps maintain energy and focus and fosters a deeper connection to the emotional nuances embedded in your writing. Moving around while reading aloud promotes a natural rhythm and flow, preventing monotony and allowing for spontaneous adjustments in tone and pacing. It's a practice that encourages presence and authenticity, transforming your writing into a visceral experience that resonates more powerfully with your audience.

Keep that in mind, the voice and the body are connected. If you spend all your time sitting and writing when it’s time to read it aloud, print it off and stand up. Think of it as a Ted talk; imagine a little audience and read to them while moving. Are they getting the point? Are they connecting to the piece? Are your points more accessible with a gesture or a change in pitch? All of these things can go into your writing. Just as when we record something, we can hear a smile in the voice, when we write actively, we can feel the movement written in or implied in the writing.

Summing Up

Reading your copy aloud is more than a simple editing technique; it's a transformative practice that breathes life into your writing. By vocalizing your words, you gain a deeper understanding of their rhythm, clarity, and emotional resonance. This process enhances the flow and coherence of your writing and ensures that your intended tone and voice remain authentic and consistent.

Moreover, connecting your body to your voice through movement while reading aloud further enhances this dynamic, fostering a natural cadence and spontaneity in delivery. Beyond the initial drafting and editing stages, regularly reading aloud allows your content to evolve and adapt, ensuring its relevance and impact over time. It's a practice that keeps your content alive, engaging, and finely tuned to resonate with your audience long after it's published.

So, next time you're crafting a blog post or shaping a social media update, remember the power of your voice. Read aloud, move around, listen closely, and let your words breathe. In doing so, you'll refine your writing and nurture a piece of work that lives and evolves in the minds and hearts of your audience.