7 questions to guide your voice as a writer

Memorable writing has a strong voice. But how do you develop the genuine tone that distinguishes your writing? Consider these components:

What is the level of language? Is it concrete or abstract or somewhere in between? Do you use street slang or the logical argument of a professor of philosophy?

What "person" do you work in? Should you use "I" or "we" or "you" or "they" — or all of these?

What is the range and the sources of allusions? Do these come from high or low culture, or both? Do you cite a medieval theologian or a professional wrestler?

How often do you use metaphors and other figures of speech? Do you want to sound more like a poet, whose work is thick with figurative images, or a journalist, who uses them only for special effect?

What is the length and structure of your typical sentence? Is it short and simple? Long and complex? Or mixed?

What is the distance from neutrality? Are you trying to be objective, partisan or passionate?

What are your frames of reference? Do you work with conventional subject matter, using conventional story forms? Or are you experimental and iconoclastic?

Taken from The Writer's Workbench: 50 Tools You Can Use, a self-directed course by Roy Peter Clark at Poynter NewsU.

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    Vicki Krueger

    Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current position as marketing communications manager.


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