Last week at a panel on writing at BlogHer Food in Atlanta, David Leite said he never asks his partner to read his drafts.
“My husband cowers in the corner when I ask him to read something,” he confessed. He suggested people find someone else to review their writing, or just read it themselves.
“Do not give it to your partner to read,” he cautioned. “They’ll either fawn over caca or critique everything.”
I took the mic and respectfully disagreed. My husband reads almost every blog post I write. And I’m thrilled that, after 23 years of marriage, he is still willing to critique my work in a constructive manner.
It takes discipline to be just as respectful as he delivers the news, however. I’m still working on that. If I get out my annoyed voice and say, “What are you talking about? Of course readers will understand,” it doesn’t help.
Here’s what Owen reads for in a blog post:
1. Am I talking to myself? Sometimes I assume readers know, and he has no idea what I mean. In the rewrite, I back up and explain a situation or fill in a gap.
2. Is he bored? My post is exciting to me, but I notice if he’s not getting into it. While he is not my target reader, if he finds it difficult to concentrate, I figure out how to pump up the language, make the beginning snappier, or tighten the delivery. (Miraculously, he found this post riveting.)
3. Do long sentences need untangling? Sometimes he trips over them. That lets me know that I need more variety in my sentence lengths, to establish rhythm and interest.
4. Do I have typos, spelling or punctuation errors, or extra spaces? He’s great at finding them.
I don’t ask Owen to read everything. For a cover story on food writing for the May/June Writer’s Digest (sorry, it’s only available on a newsstand), I enlisted two colleagues, both bloggers and freelance writers, to review a draft for me. I promised to read something for them in return.
Ironically, I realized recently that Owen doesn’t ask me to read his stuff (he writes product reviews for a Mac website as a hobby). When I asked him why, he said I’m too busy editing other people’s work. Sweet!
If you don’t have someone to read your work, try reading it out loud to yourself. And if you do use a partner or spouse for feedback, I’m curious to hear how, or whether, it’s worked for you.
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