Like I Told You . . .
Today's Snack: Finding your "voice" in writing is finding the REAL
you. To do that, you have to feel comfortable with writing. To feel
comfortable, it should feel familiar, easy, understood. Now, writing can be like
that to everybody, if you just practice it over and over. It's the same thing
with food. Sometimes, unfamiliar food can be a little scary. To really enjoy a
snack, you have to feel comfortable with its ingredients. So let's have the ultimate after-school
snack - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with a glass of milk!
Recording device, such
as a tape recorder,
cell phone or videocamera
Two pieces of lined
paper and pencil
always say that you should find your own "voice" for writing before you use any
means write with your own personality, before you try to invent another
personality. But a lot of students don't know their own writing "voice" well
enough to master it, and move on.
easy to write in your own voice, and feel as comfortable doing it as you do in
your favorite pair of shoes, if you practice it. You'll quickly find your own
"voice" if you give yourself permission to be yourself.
the best way to find out what your writing personality is, is to hear yourself
TELLING a story, not writing it. That unveils, or reveals, your speaking
personality, which is probably a lot closer to your writing "voice" than
they also say that you should write for an audience of one. When you
write, it helps to think about one person - your best friend, your mother, a
favorite teacher who thinks you're a good writer - and then you don't get
nervous or too formal. Because of uncertainty with writing assignments, a lot
of students tend to hide their real selves behind formal language.
that conceals who you are, and distorts your message. People know it's fake! Who
uses words like "therefore" and "nevertheless" in conversation? Then why would
you use those in writing? That kind of unnatural language is what makes a lot
of writing weird and boring to read.
you can do a lot better than that. You can write as if you are sitting right
next to that nice person, telling your story instead of writing it. Keep that
up, and you'll use the right "voice" and make the right word choices to
successfully get your points across and your story told.
let's practice both skills - finding your own "voice" and then writing a story
for an audience of one.
First, write a short paper about the
most unusual thing that has happened to you in the last week.
be thinking of anyone in particular as you write - write it for a large,
must have at least five paragraphs. Be sure to have a beginning, three
paragraphs of development, and then a final, wrapup paragraph. Title this paper
"Version 1 - The Unusual Thing."
As soon as you have written it, then get some kind of a recording device, pair
up with another student, or ask a family member or teacher, and, instead of
WRITING that same story . . .
TELL them what happened . . . in
your own words. Just tell the story with details and whatever you'd like, to
tell it completely. BE SURE TO RECORD WHAT YOU SAY!
you are finished, title another piece of paper "Version 2 - The Unusual Thing."
Now listen over and over to your recording, transcribing your words exactly as
you said them, in the order in which you said them, onto paper. Again, you
should have five paragraphs - a beginning, an ending, and three paragraphs in
you are finished, compare the two written versions. Be sure to share them with
the person who listened to you.
is livelier, most interesting, more "you"? In the vast majority of cases, it
will be the word-for-word transcription of how you told the story and recorded
There's your "voice"!
your assignment is to live the rest of your life writing as if you are telling it,
to someone you like.
guess what? You will be a much better writer, with readers who love to read
what you write, and they'll feel like they know you better . . . which, if you
write like your real self, they will!