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Grammar, Usage   Posts: 25

A Question about "Voice" - inspired by some helpful feedback from Mayada


EF_Kevin [Contributor] 129  
Nov 17, 2009   #1
I looked at some feedback from one of our contributors, Mayada, and she had complimented a student whose essay had "voice." I mentioned this to Mayada, and she said she thought of it because her teacher talks about it all the time. I had teachers who talked about "voice," too, but often they were unable to explain what it really is.

What does it mean to develop a "writer's voice?" This is a question I pose for everyone to answer, because I don't know what answer to give when people ask me!

Any help? I need opinions from everyone...

:-)

Liebe 2  
Nov 17, 2009   #2
This is not a qualified suggestion, nor an academic citation. It is just my opinion:

Well, Id assume that when a writer writes something, he/she is trying to communicate with his/her readers. A writer uses a number of language techniques so that he/she can be heard and understood properly. When that writer is heard or understood, it is because the writer's voice is heard.

The voice is created by language techniques. For example, full stops deaden the pace, which allows the voice to seem weakened or distraught, whilst exclamation marks makes the voice sound excited or bewildered etc (naturally, language techniques are not limited to punctuation)

I always find that the writer's voice is killed when generalisations are made. Generalizations do not bring the writer to life, because it is just a general statement, rather than the writer's voice.

Id assume that writers want their voices to be heard, so that readers can be on the same page as the writers (pun?) and therefore understand the text and the writer's point of view. This would then mean, that the writer has communicated with his/her readers effectively.
OP EF_Kevin [Contributor] 129  
Nov 17, 2009   #3
Bilal, I could have looked it up on wiki myself! Remember: never paste material into essay forum if it appears on other websites. Because of the nature of this site, no unoriginal content is allowed. I think maybe we need to explain that rule more clearly, because I know you would not have violated it if you understood it. But anyway, that is why i had to remove what you pasted in here.

Generalizations do not bring the writer to life, because it is just a general statement, rather than the writer's voice.

I agree! Your explanation of voice seems to refer to using detail, punctuation, and imagery. These are important, but the metaphor of "voice" applied to composition still involves more, I think.

For example, I only know enough Spanish to say basic things, and I say them incorrectly. If I tried to write in Spanish, I could not have a particular kind of "voice" because my vocabulary is so limited. But in contrast, Stephen King as a very distinct voice. He uses small, simple words in ways that are so blunt that they hit you like a hammer. I really can almost hear his voice.

Ursula LeGuin is another author with a distinct voice -- so wise and playful.

Here is my argument: part of what makes an author's voice is in the mind of the reader. A writer's voice varies with the perspective of the reader.

I think voice is about the relationship between writer and reader.
Mayada  
Nov 17, 2009   #4
Well our teacher explains voice in an essay as, well, voice! She said that when you read an essay you will notice if the writer has voice or not.. because if the writer does, you will feel that you know him and that you heard him, in other words, you pictured the whole essay as you were reading.. Maybe that's not a really clear definition but I think this is why voice is really hard to accomplish.. and we did "get" what voice meant because the teacher gave us two essays and one of the writers was accepted in Harvard.. The Harvard essay was a very well-written essay, but the other one is what made noise in the class.. Everyone was talking about the writer, some assuming things about his personality, as if he's a person we know already, while in the first essay, we simply knew "about" him..

Anyways, when I want to put some voice into my writings, I try to write as if I'm speaking to the person directly, and not as if I'm writing.. I kept doing that before I know what "voice" was.. and still, most of the times my essays won't have voice unless it was about something that really influenced and affected me and if I was able to make the readers feel my essay.. lool suddenly I feel that voice is like love, you'll never be able to describe it or know it until you feel it..

Oh and another thing.. our teacher also said "hook" about 250 times :P maybe it helps in building an essay's voice.. I mean, if you grab a writer's attention to make it easier for him/her to feel your essay..
Liebe 2  
Nov 19, 2009   #5
I think voice is about the relationship between writer and reader.

^Id say the voice is what connects the writer and reader, so that the reader can understand the writer's text.

Oh and another thing.. our teacher also said "hook" about 250 times

^Yea, Id imagine that the ''hook'' refers to just grabbing your reader's attention.
OP EF_Kevin [Contributor] 129  
Nov 19, 2009   #6
you will feel that you know him and that you heard him

That is great! I really never thought of it that way, but it's true. Stephen Colbert has "voice" in his book, for example, because everything he writes is consistent with that character he plays.

So, voice is different from good use of imagery, different from style. It's some kind of disposition that shines through in the writing. Ha ha, I think my writer's voice must be "nerd."

Faisal, yes, I think that is why the metaphor "voice" is used, when clearly no "voice" is involved in reading or writing. It's something I have not thought about enough...
Mayada  
Nov 23, 2009   #7
''hook'' refers to just grabbing your reader's attention.

Yeah that's what she was encouraging us to do.. Hook is way easier to define and accomplish that voice, because a skilled writer can distinguish a "hook" in his writing, however, voice can only be distinguished by the readers.. like, everything I write has voice in MY opinion, only that doesn't count because I know myself very well :P and because I know the message and the point of what I'm writing..
amybelle1092  
Nov 23, 2009   #8
I think the writers voice is very important. I read someone else say that its the relationship between the reader and the writer.While reading a book, poem, or an essay its important to get to know the writer, or you will get very bored.
margarita  
Nov 23, 2009   #9
In my opinion, the writer's voice is related with the fact that the writer gives live to his or her writing making it vivid. Perhaps, being interesting, deep, descriptive, using symbols as exclamations, using phrases as natural expresions , etc... I agree with Kevin. For me as an ESL will be very difficult to have my voice heard in my english writing. However, I am very able to do it in my native language.
mike920324  
Nov 23, 2009   #10
i think a writer's voice is his/her passion for that piece of writing, and the ability to communicate that feeling, and to make the reader feel the same way.

anyone agree with me?
lostskeptic  
Dec 4, 2009   #11
Voice is a writer's ability to convey what they feel and they're ability to show the reader how they think. A piece that hhas voice feels as if the writer is talking to you. Its that feeling that if you closed your eyes and listened you would see and feel the writers presence.
Notoman  
Dec 4, 2009   #12
Stephen King as a very distinct voice.

Yes! He does. I listened to his book On Writing this fall, and it exuded his voice--and not just because he was the author as well as the reader. It is the only Stephen King book I have read (errrr, listened to), and it made me crave more. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the craft of writing.

Shel Silverstein has wonderful voice when he writes. He comes across as witty and wise, but sardonic and succinct all at the same time. His voice varies depending on whether he was writing children's books or articles for Playboy (or Grammy-winning songs), but it is still his voice.

I see voice as personality or attitude. It can be in-your-face, subtle, or it can get lost. It is style, panache, verve. It can be formal, playful, didactic, or romantic when the occasion calls for it--and all from the same writer (although most people have a niche that they are more comfortable in--for me it is grocery lists).

It is so much more than point of view or grammar, but it *is* hard to explain.
Mayada  
Dec 4, 2009   #13
For me as an ESL will be very difficult to have my voice heard in my english writing. However, I am very able to do it in my native language.

I'm an "ESL", too.. but as long as you can write and you have solid ideas and opinions, you can always develop voice in your writing.. Voice is difficult to develop in your writing even for natives.. so I think that if you are good enough to make sentences you can always have voice.. but it will need lots of feedback and trying to put urself in the audience's shoes to practice using it..

i think a writer's voice is his/her passion for that piece of writing, and the ability to communicate that feeling, and to make the reader feel the same way.

anyone agree with me?

I partially disagree.. because I think voice is what involves the reader and the writer.. so it's not related to the passion but the ability to make the reader feel the passion..

Voice is a writer's ability to convey what they feel and they're ability to show the reader how they think. A piece that hhas voice feels as if the writer is talking to you. Its that feeling that if you closed your eyes and listened you would see and feel the writers presence.

I agree :)

It is so much more than point of view or grammar, but it *is* hard to explain.

yep.. it is :P
OP EF_Kevin [Contributor] 129  
Dec 5, 2009   #14
It is the only Stephen King book I have read

I recommend the Gunslinger series for you, or the Stand. Don't watch the movie before reading the book!

Mayada, the point you made in disagreement is similar to something I have said, too: voice is about the relationship, because it is the reader that is listening to the "voice." I think I think of this the same way you do.
Keng  
Dec 5, 2009   #15
I think a writer voice is a term used in many kinds of writing to express feelings such as sentiments, anguish and horror. It can be implied from words in the essay.
yang  
Dec 5, 2009   #16
on a literary level, i believe that voice is style and tone, but more style.

does that person write crazy thoreau-like sentences with a bunch of sat words? or more down to earth and direct? or very elevated with a bunch of metaphor?

personally, I can't write like natives, so I have to use ideas to compensate my lack of mastery of writing. My voice would more down the line of normal, direct, and fast pace.

but i might just completely misunderstand voice. I mean, it's not a well defined literary term.
Notoman  
Dec 5, 2009   #17
I recommend the Gunslinger series for you, or the Stand. Don't watch the movie before reading the book!

I'll pick up one or both over Christmas break. I won't be able to do any reading until then! One of the problems with beiing a high school student is that there is very little time for pleasure reading.

By the way, Kevin, when you came back from your absence, I noticed the change in your "voice" within just a couple of posts.
Mustafa1991 4  
Dec 6, 2009   #18
Voice is simply the outward extension of one's personality, enabled by a person's courage to exert their imagination. The odds are, if you are an outspoken person, you will have a large source to draw on when you write, and so your writing will exhibit similarities in versatility and vision. The difference between speaking (informally) and writing, is the second requires measured thought. If you happen to be a natural thinker, writing will come easy to you. Writing is captured communication, which can make a person uneasy about expressing thoughts. It is also more formal, a degree more serious than normal spoken communication if you will, and this illustrates a dimension of writing well known. Prose boasts the tincture of a person's mindset -- it allows readers to conceptualize the way a person thinks, providing insight into their thought structure. Even after a person has died, their writings remain; indeed, historians and anthropologists analyze important writings of historical figures, comparing the writings according to their voice and the phase of a person's life.
Mayada  
Dec 6, 2009   #19
I think I think of this the same way you do.

hehe.. I think I think so too ;)

The difference between speaking (informally) and writing, is the second requires measured thought.

I agree.. I write better than I speak.. My impromptu speaking skills are weaker than my impromptu writing skills, maybe because it's easier to think about what you will write next (if you're a good typer) rather than focusing on saying the words right then continuing on to the next idea.. and if you hesitate you can't "delete" or use a "backspace" button to correct it..
melb  
Dec 16, 2009   #20
I know I'm a little late on this post, but I had a few comments.

I've always learned that voice is the ability to involve your readers in your writing.
A great author that has great 'voice' engages the readers. My definition of ingage is more than keeping thier mind occupied with interesting facts and figures, but you're unfolding the drama right before their eyes and dragging your readers along for the ride.One technique for doing this is to use present tense as much as possible. Also, use active sentences. This may be common knowledge, I'm not a writing guru-though I do enjoy it.

Also, I read a book on writing technique and it explained hooks as the main thoughts of your paper that hooks the rest of what you say. I don't have the book with me now but I remember it saying something like "hooks are the main thoughts upon which everything else hangs". I guess it would be beneficial if your 'hooks' were interesting enough to 'hook' your readers, that's the point isn't it?

Anyway great question.
yang  
Dec 16, 2009   #21
melissa, i completely agree with you :D altho...it's so hard to write an essay like that...
collegebound1  
Dec 16, 2009   #22
A voice, to me, in a writers work, is simply the opinion of what they are writing about. In a writing sense, it is when they give their piece of work a personality..

i thought this question would be easier to answer, ha! but thats all i can think of to put it as simple as possible

critique my undergraduate essay if you would like! (:
z4evafoolz  
Dec 26, 2009   #23
Hey Kevin, I'll give you one heck of a simple answer.

THE Voice is your mind.

Let your mind speak, not your hands.

Oh, and to add to this (because this is relevant), don't make your essay fit the universities (i.e. don't try to make a hardcore essay saying everything good about yourself and about the university). Make your essay explicitly show your mind. After all, going to the university that your mind wants to go is where you really belong.

The Voice is your mind.
yang  
Dec 26, 2009   #24
The Voice is your mind.

haha, totally agree. but you gotta admit that not everyone is able to do that, and those who are...become writers of great classics
OP EF_Kevin [Contributor] 129  
Dec 30, 2009   #25
Make your essay explicitly show your mind. After all, going to the university that your mind wants to go is where you really belong.

Yes, that's some very important advice. Too often, people try to emphasize all their good qualities and neglect to discuss their specific plan, their unique perspective on the chosen field, and the factors that make this school perfect for them.

So, if I like Ursula LeGuin's "writer's voice," it is because I like the attitude reflected in her ideas and her ways of expressing them. This seems to be a common thread among many of our answers to this question.


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