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Birmingham International Speakers Blog

Sunday 27 May, 2012

Reading Aloud

If ever you are asked to read aloud there are three things you have to do:

  1. Read the words
  2. Read the punctuation
  3. Read between the lines.
It may seem obvious to say that you have to read the words but is that what the audience is hearing? Don't whisper, don't gabble. You may feel that your objective is just to get through it as quickly as possible but no, your objective is to communicate with the audience. There is such a thing as speaking too slowly so don't over compensate – just try to speak at a reasonable pace.

The words only tell us what to say, the punctuation tells us how to say it.  There should be a slight pause at the end of a sentence or when you encounter a comma. You might use a longer pause when you encounter a semicolon, colon or dash. If nothing else, pauses give you a chance to take a breath.

When you encounter quotation marks your tone of voice should indicate the change from narrative to quotation.

In normal speech we tend to use an upward inflection at the end of a sentence when we ask a question. So if you encounter a question mark you should inflect your voice in the same way (note: in some dialects of English an upward inflection is part of normal speech).

An exclamation mark is the most obvious indicator that emphasis should be applied but if you read between the lines and try to imagine how it should be said. Which parts should be louder or softer? How can your tone of voice replicate the tone of the piece you are reading?

When reading poetry you have to capture the rhythm of the poem but prose can have rhythms as well. Modulate your voice and avoid monotone. Your audience will appreciate it.