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Finding Your Voice—and Why It Matters

What is your "voice as a writer?" According to Julie Wildhaber, your voice “the distinct personality, style, or point of view of a piece of writing or any other creative work."

Your voice should be strong, consistently used, and tell the reader exactly who you are as a writer. In addition, it should fit the type of work where it is featured. For example, you would have a significantly different voice when writing an academic piece for a highly respected journal than you would have as a lifestyle blogger. Your voice needs to grab the reader’s attention and engage them in relationship with you.

Where do you start with creating your voice?

Start first with how YOU want to be perceived: What do you want your readers to know about you? Are you warm and nurturing? Inspiring and courageous? Or sarcastic with a quick wit? Your bio will tell the reader some of this information, but your writing will do the rest. Consider these examples from a hypothetical self-help book on positive thinking:

  • "I know it's difficult making the shift from negative to positive mindset, but I'm right here with you, and you can do this." (You want to be perceived as a caring coach.)

  • "Yes, it's difficult making the shift from negative to positive mindset, but the alternative is staying exactly where you are—how's that working for you?" (You want to be perceived as a no-nonsense guide.)

  • All the research demonstrates a concerted effort is required toward lasting change when considering a shift from negative to positive mindset. (You want to be perceived as a knowledgeable expert in a more academic setting.)

See how each example feels different because of the perceived voice? This is the power of writing with a unique, identifiable voice.

Next, consider who YOUR READERS are, as your target audience will largely determine your voice. With teenagers, you may choose to use a voice incorporating some slang. When speaking to business leaders, you would use a professional voice—perhaps with a bit of appropriate humor sprinkled throughout.

If you use a business voice with teens, you will likely be tuned out. If you incorporate slang into your PowerPoint presentation, you will likely not be taken seriously. Choosing the proper writing voice will show your readers you care about their wants, needs, and values.

Finally, consider the PURPOSE of your writing: Is it meant to inform, entertain, or motivate readers to take action? With the right voice, your writing will just “feel right” to the reader and they are less likely to get frustrated or simply stop reading. When you use the appropriate voice, you will also resonate with your reader, build your audience, and maybe even sell more articles and books!

Keep writing until you find your unique voice!

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