I tend to write and speak more formally than most people. I don’t know if this is because of the way I was raised, because of my education, or just because of who I am. Sometimes I use big words that may make me sound over-educated and pretentious, but that is just who I am. I don’t mean that I am pretentious, I mean that is my unique voice and style. I am unique and so are you, but let’s not confuse voice with style.
What is voice? Voice is a writer’s unique way of expressing themselves, the words they use, and the order in which they put those words. Voice is what gives a writer’s style an identifiable personality. For example, Steven King and Ernest Hemingway have two different personalities that are expressed through their writing voices.
Style is related to voice, but has its own characteristics. Style is the way you address a particular audience. For example, if you are having a conversation with a friend you use one style of speaking, usually less formal and full of slang and inside jokes. However, when you are giving a presentation your style of speaking becomes more formal and uses different jargon specific to that audience. Style consists of voice, word choice, and sentence fluency–the flow and rhythm of sentences and phrases, the sounds of the words, the patterns of the words, and number of words in each sentence.
Finding your voice can be very difficult for some people because they want to imitate other people and their way of writing. But your voice is your own. Try reading your writing out loud to hear how it sounds. I tell my students to do this because it really works. Hearing how your words sound out loud, listening to the flow and the vocabulary used gives you a different perspective on your writing. It is also a great way to proof your work for missing words, misspelled words, flow of words, word choice, and sentence choppiness.
I read a fantastic article by Jeff Goins that gives advice on how to find your voice. You can find that article here: 10 Steps to Finding Your Voice.
It may sound confusing, all this talk of voice, style, and fluency. It reminds me of that Charlie the Tuna commercial:
It’s a process that takes time to find and develop. Good luck and don’t give up.