Do You Hear What I Hear? -Writing With A Sense Of Voice

Writing with voice is writing into which someone has breathed. It has that fluency, rhythm and liveliness that exists naturally in the speech of most people when they are enjoying a conversation………. Writing with real voice has the power to make you pay attention and understand - the words go deep.

Source: Peter Elbow Writing With Power

Ralph Fletcher says that writing with voice has the same quirky cadence that makes human speech so impossible to resist listening to. It includes dark humor, cryptic asides, and terrific endings. Such writing has energy. It occurs when the writer's personality is captured on the page. Fletcher further reminds us that when writing has real voice, "You can sense the author pulling in close, cozying up to the subject."

Frequently people who are charming in person find it difficult to sound natural on the page. Developing voice in your writing requires awareness and diligence. It also requires a supportive mentor or writing teacher.

When working with young writers we need to assist them to explore their inner voice and helping them to keep that sense of voice intact when the writing goes public. The goal should be to slow down the writing so that each thought or idea receives its due space. By doing this, the writing settles into a comfortable stride so that the voice of the writer begins to find its way into the writing.

For this to occur young writers need the opportunity to write regularly for sustained periods.

We need to teach them to revise for voice. Alert them to the value of reading their writing aloud so that they gain an appreciation of how the writing actually sounds.
• Does it sound like you, the writer?
• Can you hear yourself chatting to a friend?
• Do some parts sound stiff and formal?

Voice is connected to an awareness of the reading audience. To encourage a sense of audience we need to encourage young writers to publish their writing beyond the walls of their classroom.

Voice in writing is connected capturing your personality on paper. Students should be encouraged to select an author they admire and write something imitating that writer’s voice. Such challenges will assist developing writers to add to their repertoire of strategies.

When a writer demonstrates a sense of voice they usually write close up to the topic. There is an intimacy to the writing. As children get older they often lose their writing voice. They become more self critical in terms of their writing and what their peers may think of it. Coupled with increased demands from the outside world such as grading, tests etc it results in writing that is safe. Writing that has yielded to the pressures applied to it. The writer begins to take less risks and the writer’s voice suffers accordingly.


• Use the strategy of “Show Don’t Tell’ to add emotional impact to your writing. This will inject your feelings into the writing.

• Use the writing strategy of ‘outside/inside’ to inject a sense of tension. It will add emotional energy to writing. Encourage students to write a sentence about the physical world (outside) that surrounds the writing and then balance this by adding a sentence that involves the writer’s emotional state (inside).

• Don’t be afraid to add your opinion to the writing. Opinions give us our voice as writers

• Look at your writing from different angles and present the view with which you are most comfortable. Use humor, sarcasm, seriousness or mystery to project a sense of voice to the subject.

• Being your-self will make it easier to write with a sense of voice. After all that is the voice you know best.

• When you write think about a conversation you would have with a best friend and let that be your guide. That will give your writing a more personal connection.

• Writing is entertainment. If you think your writing somewhat stilted or wooden for the reader, go back and rewrite it!

• Write like you talk. Simply say it aloud and then write it down as you say it.

• Study writers who have a strong sense of voice. Get their voice into your ear by reading their work aloud. Imitate their style. It is an important part of developing your craft as a writer.

• Keep a notebook or journal to explore writing ideas for your-self.

• Participate fully in your writing. Be there, See it happening and experience what you are writing about.

• Write about what is important to you .It will help you connect with it.

• Seek feedback from your readers about those parts of your writing that made them see, hear or feel something.

• Use short strong words to give your writing more impact and precision.


What A Writer Needs, Ralph Fletcher

Writing With Power, Peter Elbow

Breathing In, Breathing Out –Keeping A Writer’s Notebook, Ralph Fletcher

What You Know By Heart, Katy Wood Ray

The Writer’s Idea Book, Jack Heffron

Writing Down The Bones, Natalie Goldberg


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