I Speech: Tapping into Your “Writer’s Ear”

On Saturday, I judged a speech meet.  Over the course of the day, I listened to teens present on various topics.  Some speakers were confident.  Others were self-conscious.  Some students were articulate while others spoke haltingly.  Some presentations were filled with emotion and character, while others felt well-rehearsed, though disconnected.  Often, all these characteristics were present within one single speech alone.

Just like they can show up over the course of a single manuscript.  I’m firmly convinced that all writers should witness a speech meet.  It is a great place to tap into your Writer’s Ear.

So, what is Writer’s Ear?

Writer’s Ear is a condition that allows us to “hear” our words, not just read them.  Writing can be technically correct, yet sound stilted.  It can be filled with alliteration in a way that comes off as juvenile.  It can have misplaced rhymes, a word that doesn’t quite convey our intentions or sentences that are so similar in structure they could be used as sleeping pills.

The words we put on paper are more than their immediate dictionary meanings.  They are nuanced and emotion inducing.  Some are difficult to pronounce while others roll off the tongue.  The way we string them together can make us cringe in near-physical pain or sigh with pleasure.

Tapping into our Writer’s Ears is extremely important for children’s lit and books that might be read aloud in the classroom or as bedtime stories.  Each word must be well-chosen and serve a distinct purpose.  Above all else, it must “sound” exactly right.

By listening to our writing, we can tweak our manuscripts to go beyond a great plot.  We can make them a work of art.

How do you tap into your Writer’s Ear?

Curious mind want to know.

6 responses to “I Speech: Tapping into Your “Writer’s Ear”

  1. I love this. There is such a difference between well assembled dialogue and something that is forced. One of the best ways to avoid this is to read the dialogue out loud – learn what we are writing does sound like. It’s been a great practice for me.

    • Great point. This method is particularly important for dialogue, which must sound natural, but can’t read like actual conversation or readers would be bored to tears. It’s one of the toughies of writing well.

  2. I read my dialogue out loud. What sounds good on paper doesn’t always sound right to the ear. It helps to have someone else listening, too.

    Hope everything is going well with you, Cat!

  3. True, Cat, this is something that’s often overlooked as we obsess over grammar rules and everything else. It helps that when I’m not in a hurry, I’m an auditory reader, hearing the words in my head automatically.

    If you really want to dig into what works and what doesn’t, though, try explaining to a deaf student why the sentence they wrote “sounds wrong.” 😉

    • OUch, RC. I imagine that being a nearly impossible task. It can be difficult enough to explain to the hearing!

      Your dedication to your students is always so wonderful to hear. Thanks for sharing!

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