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A Writer’s Voice

Most great writing shares a common feature that isn’t often discussed in writing classes: a strong voice.

That’s a tough concept to get across to a bunch of high-school students! How can you put your voice into something you’re writing?

The easiest way is to write as if you’re talking. You can use I, me, you, and similar words to write from your personal perspective.

But what if you don’t want to write so intimately?

Luckily there are other strategies. But first I would ask if you’re absolutely, positively sure you don’t want to use I and me. Many teachers discourage students from first-person writing, and that’s a shame. Topnotch professionals often write from an I/me standpoint, even when they’re tackling a serious subject. So don’t be too quick to assume you can’t use your own point of view.

Let’s say, however, that you’re writing a travel piece that isn’t supposed to include details about your own visit there. Even if you don’t talk about your own memories, you can inject feelings into the places you’re describing.

For example, an article about Paris could describe what visitors might see, hear, and feel during a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Choose intriguing details and evocative words, and readers will get a sense of who you are and what excites you. In other words, they’ll be hearing your voice.

Still another strategy is to discuss a problem or concern that your readers may have  experienced themselves:

“It’s the end of the month, there are two more bills to be paid, and the checkbook balance is close to zero. Many families dread those last few days before payday.”

 “As Election Day draws near, many Americans secretly wonder whether it’s really worth the bother to stand in a long line waiting for their turn to vote.”

A writer’s voice is a huge topic – one you should think about and experiment with as often as you can. Here are four more suggestions:

  1. When you’re reading something you enjoy, try to hear the writer’s voice in your head. Then reread the piece and try to figure out how the writer created that voice.
  2. Practice writing about events in your own life that are linked to an attitude, feeling, or belief.
  3. Try writing the same story from different viewpoints.
  4. Keep a self-discovery journal where you explore your personality from as many angles as you possibly can.

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