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How Writers Think About Voice
Anne Janzer -- Membership Expert Anne Janzer -- Membership Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Luis Obispo, CA
Tuesday, July 11, 2023

colorful speech bubble shapes made of plasticine

How do you feel about your writing voice? Do you enjoy playing with it, or do you give it any thought at all?

As research for my next book, I’ve been asking people those questions. Unsurprisingly, the answers vary as much as the people.

Let’s start with what we mean by writing voice. Most of the definitions I found in my research focused narrowly on one domain, like literary fiction, poetic voice, or fictional character voice.

Roy Peter Clark has since given me a better definition, from the writing teacher Don Fry:

Voice is the sum of writing strategies that creates the illusion that the writer is speaking directly to the reader from the page or screen.

Let’s work with that one—it’s the illusion of a persona you create with your words.

The Voice Survey

To cast a wide net, I created a short survey on writing voice filled with these types of personal questions. Over 255 writers responded—too small a figure to be scientifically relevant, but it offered some useful insights.

The survey illustrated how voice means different things to different writers. Your feelings about writing voice may come down to your answers to these three questions.

1. What genre do you write in?

Our writing genres shape our thoughts and feelings about voice. For example:

  • Fiction writers care deeply about finding their characters’ voices.
  • Business writers want their writing to reflect their speaking style, personality, or personal brand.
  • Poets and literary authors search for a unique, identifiable poetic voice or style.
  • Ghostwriters and parodists enjoy mimicking other voices in their work.

The survey revealed that most of us write in more than one domain: professional writing and personal, nonfiction and fiction, etc. So our ideas of voice may shift according to what we write.

2. Do you choose voice with intention, or by accident?

In the survey, some people reported that they simply write as they speak, while others make an effort to manipulate the voice. Some intentionally adjust their voice for the situation, others do so naturally.

Several people commented that until they took the survey, they never really thought about voice at all.

Do you make an effort to tune or adjust your voice, either while writing or in revision?

The survey also revealed that many of us write in multiple domains: professional writing, poetry, fiction, and more. We automatically switch “voice” as we shift from role to role.

What would happen if we were intentional about our voice?

3. What would you change?

Even if we’re satisfied with our writing, most of us recognize room for improvement. We wish we could change or enhance the impact our words have on readers.

Most survey respondents reported feeling at least moderately happy with their writing voice. Yet, when offered a list of what they might change, very few said “nothing.” People wanted their writing to be funnier, or more fluid, or riveting, or poetic.

Learning to control your writing voice is key to upgrading your writing.

How do you feel about your writing voice?

Check out the survey results and see how your responses compare with the survey group. Are you one of the relatively small group who intentionally shifts voice at will? Are you satisfied with your voice, or do you wish it could be something better?

If so, stay tuned for my upcoming book on voice.

More reading

Writer’s Voice Survey Results

The Writer’s Voice: Techniques for Tuning Your Tone and Style

Cuesta Park Consulting & Publishing publishes books and online courses for writers and marketing professionals. Books are available in print, ebook, and audiobook formats from a wide range of retailers. For more information, visit AnneJanzer.com.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Anne Janzer
Group: Cuesta Park Consulting
Dateline: San Luis Obispo, CA United States
Direct Phone: 4155176592
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