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Writing: Voice

Personality, Live and In Color


Today's Snack: Let's have something colorful! How about a sprig of fresh broccoli, a baby carrot, a cherry tomato, and a green pepper slice, dipped in ranch dressing? Try some bright red tomato juice to go with it.




A famous children's book, such as Goodnight Moon

A story that you have written

Scratch paper

Colored pencils or marking pens



You don't have to be a detective to figure out a lot about a person based on how that person writes. Just listening to the words and sentences the writer uses will answer many questions.


You'll know whether the writer is young or old, serious or humorous, at ease or nervous, pushy or meek, rich or poor, from the United States or not, and indeed, from WHAT PART of the United States.


How can you tell all that just from the words a person chooses?


Because whenever we write, we expose part of our background. We reveal our style, our approach to life, how we feel . . . how we "roll."


Each one of us is like a mirror to the world, reflecting our thoughts, feelings, opinions, beliefs, experiences and background. Usually, we can't help but let it show in what we write.


And that is GOOD! It is the mark of a good writer to be brave enough to let personality shine through in a piece of writing.


There are several facets, or aspects, of voice in writing:


        Word choice.


        Sentence length and variety.


        Topic choice.


        Risk-taking (extra revealing of strong emotion).


        Getting "real" with slang, casual language, unexpected or unfamiliar words, or other ways to connect with a specific audience.


        Variety of voice, or a temporary change in style for emphasis.



Word Choice:


There are many, many ways to say that someone moved across a room, for example. The blandest and most boring is to say he "went." That doesn't show much of the character's personality, or yours.


But if you wrote that he "slithered" across the room, we know that you detest him. That tells us something about him and about you.


Or if you say that he "bounced" across the room, we'll want to know why he has all that energy, and we'll depend on you to tell us by your word choices whether that is a good thing . . . or, if you're using a more sarcastic voice, a really annoying thing.


So remember to choose colorful, unique, distinct words that have real personality in your writing. That's how to capture the reader's attention, and keep it throughout your paper.


Sentence length and variety:


By how short or how long a sentence is, the writer reveals his or her personality, too.


If you want to show that you are frustrated, you could have a one-word sentence with an exclamation point: "Darn!"


Or if you want to describe something that is complicated and intricate, you could write a rather complicated and intricate sentence, like this one, with a lot of punctuation.


Topic choice:


Simply by our choice of topic, too, we reveal a little about our personality. The kinds of things that interest you tell a lot about you.


That goes for the topic of your whole paper, or the topic of each paragraph within it.


If you choose to write about the funniest thing that ever happened to you, that says something about what you are like, compared to if you choose to write technical details about the most fantastic bridge that has ever been designed.


Both of those are fine topics! It is in the choice - personal humor, or engineering facts -- that we get a glimpse of what is important to you.


The other aspects of "voice," including risk-taking, use of special vocabulary, and varying your style for extra emphasis, all play a role, too.


Every personality is different . . . and every piece of writing has a different purpose. The trick is to match your "voice" with what you are writing about.

So let's see how a master of "voice" does it, and check your own writing to see where you might have strengths and weaknesses.


Because the "voice" of a piece of writing is as important as the color in a work of art, let's use color as we study these two pieces of writing.


Review that famous children's book. On a piece of scratch paper, using your color-coded colored pencils or markers, write down at least one word or phrase for each of these aspects of "voice":


        Word choice.


        Sentence length and variety.


        Topic choice.


        Risk-taking (extra revealing of strong emotion).


        Getting "real" with slang, casual language, or other ways to connect with a specific audience.


        Variety of voice, or a temporary change in style for emphasis.


Now go over the story you wrote, and do the same thing.


Can you see your personality emerge?


Is your "voice" distinctive?


Keep working - keep writing - and one day, your words will "sing" to your reader with power and beauty!


By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010

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