Candice M. Coleman, Ph.D.
Have you ever had a moment while watching a play, movie or television show, when a performer presented a line so strangely that you were distracted from what was said next? I certainly have! This happens when their delivery so confuses (or completely hides) the meaning that you have to figure it out for yourself. In the meantime, you may miss the next line or bit of action because you have to “translate” what the performer meant.
Being this attuned to delivery is the result of my work coaching actors, broadcasters and church readers. Actors are trying to make a memorized script sound spontaneous. News anchors read copy from a teleprompter to help us understand what’s going on in our community and the world. Church readers are presenting the Bible and other sacred texts to inspire us as we search for a closer relationship to God. I use Analytical Reading to help all of them read more conversationally and bring out the writer’s meaning.
If something isn’t clear when we’re read silently to ourselves, we can re-read it as many times as necessary to understand it. However, when we’re reading out loud to an audience or congregation, they only get to hear it once, so we only have one chance to make the meaning clear.
Let’s look at an example.
Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry. (I Kings 4:20)
When we see this verse on the page, the read seems fairly straightforward. However, sometimes confusion can result when we read it out loud. To make certain the meaning is clear, let’s do a bit of analysis.
In the Analytical Reading handbook, Giving the Sense: How to Read Aloud with Meaning, (p. 69) using Nedra Newkirk Lamar’s pattern of “What Does It Modify or Belong With?” you might ask yourself, what does “which” go with? Does it go with “sand” or “is by the sea?”
If you think it goes with “sand,” connect the two ideas closely when you read and you’ll probably hear yourself say:
“sandwiches by the sea”!
Is that the meaning? Maybe not. However, if you think “which” goes with “is by the sea,” connect “which” and “is,” then disconnect, or pause, between “which” and “sand” and your reading will be the more logical and meaningful.
the sand / which^is by the sea.
This is a humorous example and your listeners might smile to themselves at the mental picture it produces, but is that what you want? If they’re distracted from your reading for even a moment, they might miss the information or inspiration which follows in the next sentence or passage.
Sometimes we think (or have been told) that if we simply pause at all commas, we’ll be correct with our phrasing. Again, maybe. Maybe not. What happens when there are no commas within a very long verse, phrase or sentence? Or, when the comma is incorrectly placed? Or, when there aren’t enough of them to allow you to breathe?
Here’s another example of phrasing with a more important outcome.
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (Titus 2:13)
The question here could be, what does “and our Saviour” go more closely with – “the great God” or “Jesus Christ”? If you put it with “the great God,” the passage reads:
the glorious appearing of the great God^and our Saviour / Jesus Christ.
Doesn’t that indicate that Jesus Christ is God? However, if you put the phrase with “Jesus Christ” and read it:
the glorious appearing of the great God / and our Saviour^Jesus Christ;
the meaning is very different. So, if you believe that Jesus Christ is God, you’d read it the first way. If you don’t, isn’t the second way more aligned with your beliefs? The choice is always yours!
These are just two of hundreds of examples of how the logical principles and conversational patterns of Analytical Reading can make the meaning in the Bible and other texts clearer — not only for your listeners, but for your own inspiration and healing.
©2019, Say It Well! Permission is given to reprint this article if the following is included: Reprinted by permission of Dr. Candice M. Coleman. She can be reached at 386-402-7047.