Can You “Hear” What You Read And Write?

Image by Peter Beavis

Here’s a fun little experiment. Read the passage below in your head and see if it makes sense to you. If it doesn’t, read it out loud to yourself. If it still doesn’t make sense, ask someone to recite it to you. Hopefully, then it should be obvious.

And if you don’t have someone (to recite the passage to you, that is, not in general — that’s a whole ‘nother issue that’s outside the scope of this article), click here and copy-and-paste the passage into the text reader.

Okay, here’s the passage:

Up led Joe legions tulip lag lovely ewe gnat his date sublet merit cob. Unto theory pup leg, fur wretched stance, unlay shin, on dirt got, end if is civil, whiff fibber tea Angie us diss four hall.

As a teacher, I’ve learned that different people have different styles of learning, the two most common being visual and auditory. Visual learners need to see information, while auditory learners need to hear information.

If the above passage works as intended, whether or not you can figure it out may reveal whether you’re more of an auditory or visual learner. I believe that auditory people will naturally “hear” this passage as they’re reading it, so they’ll easily be able to understand it. Visual learners, on the other hand, will only see the words on the screen and may not immediately be able to decipher them.

As a writer, I’ve learned that writing isn’t just about grammar and spelling. Good writing flows and has a comfortable rhythm. It’s almost melodic.

In this respect, I believe it’s important to “hear” what we write, not just look at the words. Even when we’re dealing in articles that were never intended to be read aloud, we have to pay close attention to how our words sound. Because cadence is just as important to good writing as all the other technical stuff. And because there will be people out there who “hear” your written words!

I do wonder if auditory people tend to be better at writing conversationally (do auditory people make better speechwriters, for instance?), as they will naturally hear the words in their head while they’re writing. If that’s true, then someone who’s more visual may need to read their writing out loud to really get an idea of how it might come across to others.

So, did you figure out the passage? Are you more of a visual learner or an auditory learner? Feel free to tell us how you did. But don’t give away the answer, please!

PS: As was pointed out to me by a non-American friend, this experiment really only works if you grew up in the United States.

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  • I literally didn’t get it until the last few words, then it all made sense. What does that mean?

  • You know what this reminds me of? Eye mull of mush sheen!

  • Shit. Are you saying I’m a bad writer since I didn’t immediately get this on Facebook? 😉

    But really. What an unfair experiment. I feel like I grasp voice quite well (even if many people don’t get mine), but it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure this out. I attribute this more to my extremely literal way of interpreting things than my learning style. And even if it does accurately reflect my learning style, I’m not sure that directly reflects on my writing style in the way you suggested. Or maybe I just need to take the extra time required to read things out loud in order to improve my writing.

    Crap. So there IS a lesson. I wish I would’ve realized that before attempting to type all of this in my phone.

    • No, no, no. Sheesh. :-p I didn’t say that people who can’t “hear” their words are poor writers. I’m just saying that those people might have to work a little harder to make sure they write conversationally.

      Then again, I’ll admit that writing and reading are two different things….

  • Really interesting, like beebeeking I didn’t get it till the end. I had to have someone read it to me for a different view. This was fun. Thanks Dennis! Always enjoy your articles.

  • Dennis,
    Very enlightening, after reading it four times, it still made no sense.
    After listening to the first few words, I picked it up immediatly.
    This was a fun exercise, thanks!

  • This article really makes me doubt my learning style. I’ve always thought of myself as a visual learner, because I tend to like pictures of things, and even picture structures in my head when doing chemistry. However, I was able to get the passage by the end of the first sentence, and later when Dennis brought it up, I realized that for every word I ever type or write, I say it in my head, so my writing is more of a silent conversation to myself. Weird stuff

    • Well, now most people are actually a combination of more than one style. And even splitting it into auditory versus visual is a huge simplification (there are also kinesthetic–or tactile–learners, for one). When I give my kids these types of tests, most of them come up as being some combination of the three.

      Point being, I think tests like these can be fun and informative, and maybe they tell you what style you *lean* towards. But, I wouldn’t really take anything earth-shattering from them.

  • I got this about half way through because what I “hear” when I read is standard English pronunciation, without slurring, rushing, or emphasis.

  • I read your paragraph to myself, then I read it aloud, then I had text to speech re-read it for me…twice. Finally on the second text to speech reading, I caught the last sentence. Very interesting that I had such difficulty with it, though I imagine that your “inner voice” (i.e. I don’t read everything with Morgan Freeman’s voice accompanying it, heh) accent could hinder it. I do not slur my words when I speak, though the paragraph was easier to understand when I intentionally dragged them out. Damn having a NY accent, I want a refund! 🙂

    • Ha, fair enough. Well, if you go to the text reader I linked, they have a variety of accents to choose from. Maybe one of them will be more to your liking…. 😉

    • I’m English, so it took me two attempts with the text reader set to an American female voice to understand that it is the American pledge of allegiance. I feel rather left out and a bit stupid. I also didn’t realise you could read without hearing the words in your head. Do people really read in such vastly different ways?

  • Wow!!! I’m definitely more auditory. I certainly didn’t get it until I used the text reader. That is so interesting! This exercise reminds me to let the kids use their whisper phones, when reading, to help with comprehension.

  • I got it after hearing it read back to me! I’ve always considered myself a visual learner but maybe I’ve been missing the mark. Perhaps I need to work on the auditory aspects of my learning or at least pay more attention to it. This might explain my occasional frustration with new material. It was great! Thanks for sharing!

  • 4tbifacilitator

    I don’t get it. I read it to myself; I read it aloud; I had someone read it aloud to me and finally I went back and read it to myself. Have never considered myself an auditory learner. I am a visual learner with some logical-mathmatical thrown in as I am most comfortable seeing things in a linear fashion. I love Gardners work on multiple intelligences. I gave students an assessment at the beginning of each school year. I do hear my words when reading and when writing and often have conversations and replay conversations with myself verbally and in my head. Would love someone to email what I didn’t get!

  • When I used the text-to-speech, the audio version made sense. But, as your p.s. indicates…this passage requires a knowledge of life in the USA to make sense.

  • “I do wonder if auditory people tend to be better at writing conversationally (do auditory people make better speechwriters, for instance?), as they will naturally hear the words in their head while they’re writing.”

    I am a writing teacher working with a couple students that are very strong auditory learners. Due to learning disabilities, their mother (they are homeschooled) has done a lot of reading to them over the years, and they have an excellent sense of the sound of the passage they are writing. I am often amazed at how well they have written for the ears as well as for the eyes.

    Perhaps this ability is not only natural because of the learning type; perhaps it is also due to the cultivation of a sense of how words sound aloud that has come from their mother’s reading them good literature. I have come to be convinced over the years that reading to students is a necessary ingredient in their education as well!

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