New College Writing Program

Voice

Voice: Voice is a metaphor when applied to writing, one that takes spoken language as its point of reference. The term voice is often used to describe the degree to which writers create a particular tone or evoke the sense of a person “behind” the writing; In this way we might talk about a voice in writing that is passionate, humorous, sarcastic, learned, or less complimentarily, a voice that is condescending, defensive, or whiny.

Voice can also be used to describe the level of formality in a piece of writing, ranging from conversational or colloquial to very formal. How would you describe the appropriate voice for the research-paper about violence in the media written by our hypothetical student in the example above? Formal? Informal? What kinds of choices will help to achieve the desired voice effects? Should the student use slang? Crack jokes? Should the student create a voice that communicates her or his passion for the topic at hand? How would a student do that?

In "Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing," Julie Wildhaber, aka Grammar Girl, explains how word choice can help a writer connect with his or her readers

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