in communication

Writing aloud

In the last 12 months or so, very occasionally, I’ve heard somebody say “tweaked to” instead of “twigged to”, in the sense of “reaching an understanding of” an idea or fact.

Usually it comes from someone in the under-30 age group.

This week, I spotted an example in the written word:

It seems that even in spite of the sizeable advertising budgets for the campaign, nobody has tweaked to the notion that the most successful political YouTube videos don’t follow the tried-and-true ‘politician in front of flag promising more money and fewer taxes’ model.

Sloppy sub-editing, or perhaps an emerging new usage based on mis-hearing of the original?

Reading aloud is often recommended as a way check the quality of your writing. Reading aloud to yourself, you are likely to stumble over awkward grammar and difficult words.

For detailed proofing, try reading your draft backwards and aloud — this can help you to focus on the spelling of each and every word.

Read your work aloud to a friend. Ask her to let you know when an idea is unclear, if your logic seems faulty or when she doesn’t know which character is speaking.

Even better, ask somebody else to read the piece aloud to you. Hearing your words in someone else’s voice is a bit scary, but worth the effort. Listen for the gasping as your friend encounters long-winded or over-complicated sentences. Pay attention to the places where he emphasises the wrong word — you may need to fix the punctuation or restructure the whole sentence for clarity.

Of course, none of these strategies will help if you genuinely don’t understand the difference between “twigged to” and “tweaked to”. You can improve your general knowledge about language by reading more widely — novels, poetry, any kind of book that isn’t work-related and isn’t a throw-away magazine or train-station newspaper.

According to a recent report by the US National Endowment for the Arts (PDF 3.3 Mb), people who read frequently for leisure:

  • are likely to be good at reading and writing
  • are more employable than people who don’t read regularly
  • tend to get better-paying jobs, with more opportunities for career growth
  • are more likely than non-readers to attend cultural events, play or watch sports, be creative and do charity work

Having more than 100 books in your home is also good for your kids — according to the same study, children raised in a reading-friendly household tend to do better at school than kids raised in a less-bookish environment.

Further reading

BBC Skillswise – proof-reading: fact sheet, worksheet and quiz to test your proof-reading skills. The BBC Skillswise web site is a self-help resource for adults who want to improve their literacy and numeracy.

Wikipedia: definitions of proof-reading and copy-editing, two different kinds of editorial work.

Blog post by Peter Cooper (2004): “The Editing Process.”

Anna Goldsmith offers “Five Easy Steps to Editing Your Work,” in a post at Copyblogger.com.

Beware Muphry’s [sic] Law of Editing ;-)