Often, aspiring writers are concerned about creating a unique voice in their writing. They want to sound like no one else, to express themselves in a way that thousands or even millions of people will find compelling. Maybe it’s unrealistic that any of us will truly sound like no one else, but we like to believe that our writing is a true expression of ourselves.
However, if we’re honest, we don’t have one voice any more than we have one side of ourselves. We act differently in different situations, and speak to our best friend one way and a stranger another. The words we use and our tone of voice change when we address different people. Thus, when we go to find our voice as writers, what we are really looking for is the right voice for the piece. The voice we use is determined by three factors:
–What we want to say
–What effect we want to have on the reader or readers
–Who our readers are
Think about it. Let’s say you want to complain about something. You will use different language than if you want to express deep gratitude. If your reader is your best friend, and you want her to feel empathy for you, you will use a different voice than the one you would use if your reader were the customer service representative of a company and you wanted to persuade that individual to replace the company’s defective product for free.
Perhaps you want to write about container gardening. Do you want your reader to container garden as well, and learn some basics about how to do it? Or are you simply writing a humorous essay about how you overcame your brown thumb and became overzealous about your bumper crop of parsley?
What effect do you want your writing to have on your reader? Do you want the reader to experience a particular emotion—if so, which one? Do you want the reader to take action? Do you want to persuade your reader to adopt your opinion?
What language will motivate, surprise, or amuse the person who has stumbled across your blog? What idea will grab the attention of your letter’s recipient?
We all want to express ourselves, but we also want to be heard. When you use a voice that appeals to your reader and serves the purpose of your writing by transforming that reader into a person who is entertained, intrigued, mesmerized, educated, fascinated, comforted, and so on, you not only get to experience the satisfaction of self-expression, but you also get the satisfaction of having your writing be truly appreciated. Remember, your writing voice shouldn’t be determined solely by you and your mood of the moment. Always remember your purpose and your audience.