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Another Look At Voice

By Expert Author: Gary Jones

If you're a homeschool student in the middle grades, and you're looking for a definition of what teachers call "voice," you don't have to look far. Here's how some big time writers explain it: "It's the you coming through your writing... It's your own style, tone and flavor... It's how you connect with the reader... It's when your writing reaches out and pulls in the reader."
Here's how Lisa Ede expresses it. The following is from her Work in Progress: A Guide to Write and Revising:
"Just as you dress differently on different occasions, as a writer you assume different voices in different situations. If you're writing an essay about a personal experience, you may work hard to create a strong personal voice in your essay. If you're writing a report or essay exam, you will adopt a more formal, public tone. Whatever the situation, the choice you make as you write and revise... will determine how readers interpret and respond to your presence."
Odds are your parent or teacher's idea of voice will fall somewhere along those lines. The problem is, there's not a lot of "how" in a definition. It's a definition, yes, but there are no samples that would help you answer the question, "I get it, but how do I do it?" First, let's take a closer look at the definition of voice? Some writers like to combine what we know as voice with another idea we see often, that of "style." If we compare the two, voice and style, we can probably get by with a temporary mixing of the two. In other words, we can probably argue that the difference is so slight that we need not consider them separately. For now, let's blend these two concepts into one idea, the idea of voice, and let style come along for the ride.
A Closer Look at the How
I am writing in my voice when I choose to write, "For now, anyway, let's blend these two concepts into one idea, the idea of voice, and let style come along for the ride." So, why do I say this is something written in my voice? Because I doubt anyone would ever choose to express that thought the way I did. Someone else could express the same idea a different way, one that would highlight his or her voice. Instead of writing, "... and let style come along for the ride," another writer might say, "... let's combine the concepts of voice and style." Another writer could write it another way, like "... the concepts of voice and style can, for now, be combined." The choice is usually made when a writer answers the questions, "What is my purpose, who is my audience, and what tone is appropriate?"
In all, finding your own voice is not hard at all because you don't actually have to look. All you have to do is write with honesty. Again, your voice will come through when you express ideas using your own thoughts. If you ever wanted to let your individualism come through, it will when you write with honesty. Plus, you don't have to be overly creative, either; creativity will come along for the ride, just like style did a while ago.
You don't have to sit there, trying to push your mind toward some kind of unique, unusual way of expressing something. Just be yourself. If there's a key to writing with your voice, that's it-just be yourself, and write the way you feel and think is right. When you do, your voice (or style, if you wish) will come through on its own, and believe me... it will.


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