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Writing Tips: Personal Voice in Writing

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/14/2012

Your paper is typo-free and word perfect but your teacher still doesn't think it's good enough? One crucial element of writing is adding voice or personality. Learn how to add some voice and perspective to your writing.

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    Personal Voice in Writing

    Have you ever interrupted your English teacher and asked him or her what personal voice in writing is? If you did, your teacher probably dodged the question by using big words.

    Personal voice in writing is another way of saying personality in writing, the type of content that makes your writing distinct (not the way you say it; that's called style). A look at the elements of voice in writing will make the concept of personal voice in writing more clear.

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    Elements of Voice in Writing

    Be lively and unpredictable. How much fun is it listening to someone drone on and on using words that only he understands with a monotonous tone and rhythm? It's about as much fun as reading an essay that drones on and on that uses words only the writer understands and has a monotonous tone and rhythm. Having a good personality and strong voice in writing requires using natural language, sensory details, action verbs, sentence variety, parallel structure, and varying sentence lengths.

    Use figurative language. Remember all those lessons your teachers taught you about figurative language? You wondered what purpose they served. Using figurative language (metaphors, similes, analogies, personification) adds variety and personality to your writing. It allows you to explain the ordinary extraordinarily and the complex simply. Unlikely comparisons express originality and create reader interest. Avoid cliches.

    Use humor appropriately. Humor appeals to the reader's intelligence, alleviates boredom, and reveals your human side. Note the difference between intelligent humor and insulting the reader's intelligence with long narrative jokes ending in a punch line. Intelligent humor consists of being playful, using puns, wit, irony, meiosis, and hyperbole.

    Be sincere. Without genuineness your writing is superficial. Being sincere requires substance over style, taking a stand, and revealing your true self and your true thoughts. Connect with your reader. When revising, avoid the following symptoms of insincerity: overuse of the passive voice, the excessive use of verbs as nouns (recommendation, communication, etc), and unnecessary complex sentences.

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    Steps to Improve Voice in Writing

    1. Approach each writing assignment with vigor. Look at it as an opportunity to express yourself creatively. Think of it as your chance to share ideas in a compelling manner.

    2. Imagine your writing assignment is a party and everybody's bored. You'd figure out a way to liven it up, wouldn't you? Identify boring sections of writing and think of ways to liven it up with figurative language.

    3. Use sensory details. Parents carry pictures of their children with them for a reason. You're the parent of your ideas, so create pictures with sensory details.

    4. Study great writers and notice how they create personal voice in writing. Focus especially on how writers use humor. Shakespeare, Dickens, Lardner, Twain, and Keillor are a good start.

    5. Use active voice. When you are at a sporting event, what do you focus on? You focus on the action--the players, the cheerleaders, the officials making a call. You're not paying attention to the guy in the third row with his hands folded, staring blankly at the floor. If your writing is passive, no one will pay attention to it.

    Follow these expert tips and you'll soon be on your way to literary genius!