Finding your voice in writing is a crucial part of becoming an excellent writer.
It's what makes your stories, essays, and assignments unique, authentic, and recognizable. And it's how you infuse your own personality and tone into your work to craft essays that are as individual and interesting as you are.
But it can be difficult to define voice.
For some, it's the way you tell a story. For others, it's your tone or your feelings about a story. The most comprehensive definition of voice is that it's a combination of all of the things that make your writing sound like you: tone, feelings, perspective, and personality.
How to Develop your Writing Voice
It's worth your time to develop your voice in writing because you want your essays to be unique and original. People should read your work and instantly be able to recognize you as the author. These exercises help you reflect on who you truly are and what aspects of you define your voice.
1. Know Thyself
Duh. This one makes perfect sense. It's hard to infuse more of "you" into your writing if you don't know exactly who "you" are.
Think about how you would describe yourself.
Make a list of the first three adjectives that pop into your head.
If you described yourself as funny, outgoing, and friendly, are these the same words you would use to describe your writing?
Create a voice that is faithful to these words. Keep these three adjectives in mind when you're developing your tone. And continue reading to learn more exercises to build on adding the personality you want to portray in your writing.
2. Keep your Audience in Mind
You are probably writing for many different people at this stage of life. And the way you write changes depending on if you are writing for teachers, peers, yourself, admissions teams, or potential managers.
Naturally, your writing voice will adapt as your audience changes.
Think about how differently you speak to your friends versus how you speak to a teacher. You use a different tone, style, and personality.
This is the same for when you are writing. Your voice can fluctuate, but it is still guided by your authentic self. Try this activity:
Take one writing prompt and write it for three different audiences (maybe try peers, teacher, and an admissions team). You can find sample prompts online or you can write a simple essay about what you would do if you won a million dollars.
How does your voice change depending on the audience? How does it stay the same?
Certain parts of your personality will still be present in all three prompts. Maybe you incorporate humor. Maybe you show a great passion for volunteering. This is your voice.
Some aspects might vary. You might use more slang or a more familiar tone with a peer. You might be more formal with an admissions team. This is also your voice. It's just adjusting to meet the demands of your audience.
3. Listen to Yourself
Your speaking voice can help you discover your writing voice. The way you sound when you speak should be reflected in your writing.
Record yourself having a conversation with a friend.
How do you sound?
If you sound optimistic and upbeat, this is what you should convey in your writing. If you are sarcastic and pessimistic, this should appear in your writing voice.
Just as when your friends and family hear your voice and know it's you, whoever is reading your writing should be able to recognize the essay as yours.
4. Just Start Writing
Pick up a pen (or open up your laptop), and let the thoughts flow. This free-writing activity can reveal your natural voice. As your mind wanders and creates words on the page, you might see some patterns emerge.
If you need a place to begin, find writing prompts online, ask a teacher for suggestions, or find a passage you don't like and write your own version on how you would improve it.
What flows naturally for you in your writing?
Is there a certain style or tone that appears?
Writing without boundaries can help you see where your personality comes through. When you find repetitive styles and themes, these can lead you to a more specific definition of your voice.
5. Explore your Inspirations
Think about the people who inspire you. Reflect on their influences on your life.
Who are your favorite authors? What do you love about their voices?
What people do you aspire to be like? What personality traits do you admire in them?
Jot down a few thoughts about these people. Your voice can mimic the voices of these people whom you admire. Craft your voice in a way that inspires others as these people have influenced you.
6. Seek Help from Others
When you're completely tired of self-reflection, ask a buddy (or anyone who knows you) for some help. They hear your voice all the time and can sometimes offer some insight into your writing voice. If you have people who look at your writing often (a teacher or a parent), they can help as well.
Ask them to describe you. What words do they choose for you?
Ask them to reflect on your speaking voice. How do they describe your voice?
Use their input to paint a better picture of you. Their words can help define who you are. Let these attributes shine through in your writing voice.
7. Reflect and Revise
Once you have started recording some of your answers to the above questions and have tried some activities such as free writing, put all of these reflections, words, and thoughts on to a clean sheet of paper.
As you begin new assignments, look at this page. As you finish assignments, look at it again.
Does your writing voice match your reflections on the paper?
Would someone describe the voice in your essay with the same words you've discovered for your voice?
If things aren't matching up, it's time to rethink your writing. If you're a funny person, find ways to let your humor come out in your writing. If you're passionate about politics, make arguments that show how much you care. Look for ways to incorporate your writing voice into your essays.
Making your writing voice distinctive and unique is an important goal but it does take practice. Take time to evaluate your own writing style and use the questions and exercises above to create goals for the qualities you'd like to incorporate in your writing tone. Over time, you'll start to see your authentic personality start to peek through in your written work.