Every writer wants what they’ve written to captivate and resonate with their readers. However, words on the page can’t show emotion, so it’s up to your word choice to evoke the correct feelings.
Voice is one of the most critical yet difficult things for writers to develop. You could follow every grammar rule perfectly and yet the way you approach writing is completely different than someone else. That’s because we all have our own thought processes and styles when it comes to presenting written information.
Your voice marks who you are as a writer, which is why it’s important to think about the way you structure sentences. Here’s a guide for finding a writing voice.
How to identify Voice
The distinct style that each writer has is called voice. Whether your favorite author is J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Charles Dickens, J. R. R. Tolkien, or someone else, there’s no doubt that each of these writers have their own distinct written voice. Take a paragraph from any two writers and each one will sound completely different from one another.
But why? Whenever a writer begins writing, they naturally gravitate towards how they speak in the real world. This is because the way we write is often a reflection of how we’d present the information verbally.
Look at these three different approaches to writing the same e-mail:
Good morning, June. I was wondering if we could meet today to talk about the mistakes in the report. The best time for me to meet is ten thirty, but let me know if we can arrange a time today.
Hello, June. I know that the report had some errors in it, so I’d like to meet around ten-thirty to go over the mistakes. Let me know if you can make time to do this today.
June, I know our team completed the report, but it came to my attention that there’s some glaring errors in it. Could you set a priority meeting at ten thirty to go over the mistakes?
Each of these e-mails yield the same information; however, the way they’re approached is different. The way the e-mail is written is essentially the voice the author uses to convey their concern. Think about how you approach writing when you’re developing a writing voice.
What Influences Our Written Voice?
An affluent girl who went to a private prep school will write differently than a blue collar worker struggling to get by on the streets of New York. That is because both of these individuals have different experiences that shape the way they think.
You, too, have your own experiences – from social to religious to personal – that built how you experience the world. Your background will come out in your narrative if you’re trying to write something people can relate to.
Dialect is the language that’s common among a social group or culture. Whether we like it or not, where we live and who we interact with contributes greatly to our writing voice.
But why? Writing is a reflection of who we are as people. Even if your characters live in a fantasy elvish town, inevitably they’ll share some commonalities with your own experiences. We oftentimes emulate scenarios we’ve seen, heard, or experienced before in our books, so your fantasy town will be influenced by things you already know.
But what if you study a new region to build a setting? Well, of course you can learn the common dialect of other people’s cultures! However, finding a writing voice is part of your personal approach to writing. The way you convey your innermost feelings and thoughts down on the page is a reflection of you, which is why voice is difficult to replicate.
Think about it: many writers have tried to emulate great writers such as Shakespeare or Tolkien. Did they succeed? Well, some have gotten close, but it’s evident whom each piece was written by. That is because writing can’t be copied, and, well, your own voice is you, so celebrate it!
Now that we’ve established voice, how can you develop it?
Because voice comes from how you critically think, it’s difficult to teach. Voice is personal to each individual, so you’ll need to put effort into developing a writing voice.
To get started on finding a writing voice, take a look at the most recent thing you’ve written. What words did you use? Could there have been a different way you would’ve preferred to phrase something? These questions can help you identify how you’re already writing and allow you to further improve your own unique style.
Think about tone
When you’re writing, think about the tone you want to take. Are you writing a formal statement? Or maybe you want to write a blog post that speaks directly to your audience. Think about what you’re trying to achieve as a writer and convey the information you want people to read it as.
The Words You Choose Matters
Because voice comes from the way we speak, it’s grounded in the words you choose to use. Telling someone the “the weather’s nice” versus “the weather’s amazing” gives two different feelings on what you’re saying.
Is one way better than the other? Not necessarily, but the latter word (amazing) comes across as more enthusiastic. Think about how small tweaks to your writing can vastly alter the emotions evoked.
Adjectives, as you probably remember in middle school, are used to describe nouns in a sentence. However, grammatically speaking, adjectives have a lot to do with voice. The modifiers you use gives your writing a distinctly different feel.
Here’s an example of how each of these sentences describe a ballroom:
- The ballroom was magnificent
- The ballroom was beautiful
- The ballroom was grand
Can you picture the type of person who’d say each adjective to describe the room? Even though each of these words are similar in their own right, it’s critical to understand how each word could be use to show differing perspectives.
The way you structure paragraphs also shapes voice
Writing is very much a visual medium; when we read, we’re looking at the words. That means a long-winded paragraph will come across differently than bullet points. Developing your writing voice has much to do with how you decide to organize your thoughts.
Think about how you want your readers to digest the information you’ve written. Will you space out the paragraphs in easy-to-read sentences? Or, perhaps you’re looking to write something with more of a poetic twist. Either way, paragraph structure is important to helping you develop your unique voice.
Accepting Your Voice
Being a writer means you have to accept your own written voice. Everything you have to say is important, which is why you should always strive to keep improving the art of writing. Finding a writing voice can be a long journey, and you might need to experiment before you’re satisfied with your work.
After all, no one can replicate your style and ideas, so enjoy your own uniqueness!
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