Many beginning writers hear the term â€œvoice,â€ as in, â€œfinding your writer’s voiceâ€ but aren’t sure what it means. â€œVoiceâ€ is the words we choose, as well as our sentence structure, the cadence of how the words fit together.
When people speak, we may have an accent or speak in a particular dialect of our native language. We also have speech patterns, slang phrases we use, and favorite expressions. These are often influenced by the area we live, our age/generation, our socioeconomic status, and possibly even what we do for a living. (Language directly influenced by our industry is sometimes called â€œjargon.â€)
In writing, all of these things together form a â€œwriter’s voice.â€ Many of us write the way we talk. But some writers are adept at adopting different voices. If you can write in a variety of voices, you can expand your writing opportunities to include:
- Writing in a variety of fields and industries
- Writing for the web, print, television or radio
- Making $1/word or more writing for glossy national publications or trade journal
How to Recognize Other Voices
The first step to learning how to write in different voices, is learning how to recognize different voices — and what creates them — when you read. For instance, corporate writing adopts a more formal style. Blogs can be casual, fun or newsy, depending on the audience. Sales and marketing copy has a conversational style designed to draw in — and convince — readers.
To begin to pick up the cadence of different writing voices, read widely. Read everything. (Where have you heard that writing advice before? Everywhere, I’m guessing!) After you read something in a unique, distinctive voice, sit down and write something using that voice.
â€œFinding Someone Else’s Voiceâ€
Writing in a different voice often requires more extensive rewriting. The first words that come out of our minds and onto our computer screen are usually our â€œnaturalâ€ writing voice. In many cases, this is also the way we speak. (If you ever hear me give a webinar, you’ll recognize that I write these blog posts in my â€œteaching voice,â€ and I speak pretty much the same way when I’m teaching someone about writing.)
To write in a different voice, consider all the different ways you can say the same thing. Use words not in your normal lexicon. Vary your techniques and your sentence structure.
If you are ghostwriting, the best thing to do is to read everything you can that person has written. The same goes for submitting queries or articles to major magazines. You want to make that â€œvoiceâ€ part of your mind, so you can hear it in your own thought patterns. You should begin thinking like your client, or like the writers of the magazine you want to write for. When you start to think like your client or your magazine’s market, you’ll start to write in a way they can relate to, naturally.
Take the Writing Voice Challenge
Here’s an exercise for you. Take a recent article or blog post you have written and rewrite it:
- In the voice of your favorite author
- As sales copy
- As a corporate communication
- As an email to a friend
After you do this a few times, you’ll be close to an expert at adopting other voices, and then you don’t have to worry if you land an assignment that forces you to write in a voice different from your own writer’s voice. You can do it!
Feel free to share your examples below in the comments or tell us other ways you experiment with “voice” when you’re writing.