Manuscript lessons from Dr. Seuss

Posted: August 1, 2011; Manuscript Monday

You’ve read Dr. Seuss books, right? Is there any English speaker over the age of six who hasn’t read Dr. Seuss? The pleasure in his books is the way the words tickle your tongue as you read it aloud. He had a gift for cadence and sound. Reading a Dr. Seuss book silently just doesn’t do it justice.

One of the best ways to review your manuscript to hear how others might read it is to take a lesson from Dr. Seuss: read it aloud.

Seriously. You’ll hear awkward phrases and words repeated too often and weird unintentional rhyming. You’ll hear when you’ve used “just” or “very” too often. You’ll hear when you’ve started the last five sentences with the same subject-verb combination.

Because the human brain processes text read aloud differently from text read silently, you’ll also be more likely to catch spelling and grammatical errors. It’s a win-win!

I’ve read plenty of manuscripts where the words are jarring, phrases repeat, meanings are convoluted. That’s virtually guaranteed to result in a rejection. And if the publisher thinks that’s just the way you write, they’re not going to be interested in any revisions or future manuscripts you may have.

Pro tip: read your manuscript aloud to someone else (who’s willing). Read 2-3 chapters a day, to avoid irritating them. Take all their questions seriously. And then be sure to thank them in your acknowledgments!

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