Epic writing and reading

Did you hear the late Seamus Heaney’s reading of Beowulf on Radio 4? It sounded wonderful. I only vaguely followed the story, but that didn’t matter. It was still lovely to listen to and made me want to read it.

Epics and sagas were meant to be listened to. Most weren’t written down until much later, but they had to sound good for their message to be heard.

Today’s messages are usually composed the other way round – written first and spoken later, if at all. The results are often disastrous. You can’t follow the story, you don’t understand half of it and the message does not get through.

When you’re writing, one of the best ways of testing what you’ve written is to read it out loud. If you stumble or put the stress in the wrong place or run out of breath, you can be sure your reader will find it hard and you will have failed to communicate.

I recommend reading aloud in my training courses. Try it next time you have something important to write.

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