Words written to be spoken

Most of the stuff I write is written to be read. I doubt it’s often spoken out loud. True, there may be a few readers who have never dropped the habit of reading out loud from when they were learning to read. But I kind of doubt it. It’s not a good look.

Recently I was asked by a regular client to help them write the script for a presentation at a UX awards event. It was a refreshing change to write words designed to be spoken – and it meant an even tighter focus than normal on clarity and immediacy. There’s no chance for the listener to read a sentence again if it confuses them. It has to be right first time.

The technique I relied on most heavily? Reading what I’d written out loud. You can hear right away every clumsy phrase, every over-long sentence. You can hear when the energy of a passage sinks because you’ve lost the narrative thread.

Well, it worked. My client won the award. My script convinced the judges. The words did their job just as I hoped they would.

And when I came to take another look the script, what struck me most was how nicely it flowed. I think that’s simply because it was read out loud as I wrote it. It’s the best test there is. But it does mean you have to sit at your desk muttering to yourself.