The Silent Writer

I just spent a few days with laryngitis. It got to the point where I referred to myself as ‘The Silent Writer.’ My communications with freelance clients were by text & email, as I tried to keep the croaking into the phone to a minimum.

Aside from the coughing fits—painful, body racking, and exhausting—and the general malaise it wasn’t too awful. But there was one strange side effect that got in the way of both freelance and fiction productivity: trying to avoid talking meant I had to avoid reading text out loud. This is something I always do before handing in an assignment, posting on my blog, and throughout the course of writing fiction and non-fiction. The sound of the words—in my own voice—is part of the first draft process. It’s also part of my final draft, and it’s a stop over/detour I take often along the way.

I’m not sure how this started, but reading text in my head as I write (something I’m doing right now with a throat lozenge in my mouth) is simply not enough. I have to HEAR the words. I catch typos; I finesse sentences; I rearrange thoughts—all due to hearing the words out loud.

This is particularly important when I’m writing dialog in fiction. I’m not the greatest actress on the planet, but I try to create voices for my characters through the use of particular vocabulary, hearing the words outside my brain helps me spot check the verbiage in regard to that character’s life, education, and personality. Just reading what I’ve written is clearly not enough.

This silent writer crossed her fingers when she sent a short, rush job assignment to a favorite client. I’d croaked out the words before I hit SEND, but I didn’t get the opportunity to hear the short, and very important, pitch the client asked me to draft.

When I read, I hear the words in my head, but writing…. It obviously needs more. Fellow readers and writers: are any of you reading out loud or are you ‘silent writers’?

Sometimes Morse is my audience when I read text out loud.


  1. I am definitely a fan of reading writing out loud when it comes to proofing my own work. I do so for client editing work when it’s a particularly tricky passage as well. My voice tends to give out fairly easily though, so I’m also a fan of cough drops on a regular basis to help that issue along!

    • Candy Korman

      My voice “retires” once or twice every year. Cough drops only go so far, but I, too, am a fan.

      It’s interesting how speaking the words out loud enables us to discover glitches in a way that hearing the internal voice does not. I know that our eyes can gloss over typographical errors, but there’s more to it. It’s almost as if the sound is OUTSIDE and that makes it separate enough to critique with a more assertive red pencil.

  2. Yes, yes, YES! I read quickly so I have to employ all sorts of tricks to slow myself down when it counts, and editing is definitely one of those times.
    Commiserations on the cough. I’m heading off to get the flu jab on my way to work today. Can’t remember the last time I had one, but I’m teaching 3 classes now so I’ve decided not to push my luck.
    Hope you get better soon.

    • Candy Korman

      SLOW… Reading out loud forces us to s..l..o..w down and that’s key to editing, to listening to the sound of the phrases, to finding that word that makes you stumble and realize that, although it’s a perfect lovely word, it’s too long, or too awkward, or too repetitive.

      Drinking some hot lemon & ginger tea in preparation to read a freelance assignment out loud. I have to send the draft today and I want it to be good!

      Slowly getting better, thanks! I’ve gotten flu shots for 20 years and only once did the virus sneak through. That was the winter of 2015. It was horrible.