Voice and Writing

“We may be constructed by culture, but if we learn to analyze carefully enough how this happens, then we can actually work toward a fairer world.” -Paul Smith and Randall Freisinger


“Voice” is a privilege to have where I come from. Having a voice at all, you were already on top of the world. As I read this article through the eyes as a growing student, I began to realize a lot of points made about voice that was never taught to me. Before I get into those points, this article also made me revisit the issues I had with my own voice and writing. Even as a young student, I knew I had something to say about different topics, world issues, or politics.

However, I always to write about what the teacher wanted me to write about in his or her voice. My writing voice was silenced, which meant my voice was silenced. I then began to sound robotic. I had no unique style and I knew there were twenty other papers that sounded exactly like mine. Peter Elbow who wrote this article, “Reconsiderations: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries”, wrote about the importance of and how it constructs one’s self. “Among the latter group, some want to disguise what they feel are their ‘real selves’, some want to give voices to what they experience as multiple selves, and some don’t feel they have actual selves at all until they create them with language” (171). I related to this in the way I could not be myself when it came to my voice. This issue was carried with me until my undergraduate years of college.

One of the points I want to discuss is that voice in writing is not only important for the author but for the reader as well. “When readers hear a voice in a piece of writing, they are often more drawn to read it-and that audible voice often makes the words easier to understand” (Elbow, 176). I can’t think of a piece of literature or poetry that I have read where I was not drawn to the voice of the author or character. It is a critical aspect of writing that I think many scholars and educators have failed to realize. Personally, there is nothing wrong with having your own voice in an academic paper.

The second point that I found interesting was the technique of having students reading their work out loud more but for a specific reason. Of course, we were all taught to read our work aloud before handing it in. However, Elbow suggests that the student should read their work out loud because they are more likely to, “listen to their words and write sentences that are inviting and comfortable to speak, which, in turn, makes the sentences better for the readers reading in silence”. I thought that was so fascinating. When a student hears their voice in writing out loud, in their own voice, the reader will most likely be more attracted to and engaged in their writing.

The last point, which I had to agree and disagree with Elbow, was on page 183 when he discussed issues with voice writing in the classroom. He pointed out that voice in writing would make the students believe that writing in their own style and voice, then they will be good writers. Even though I agree with him to a certain degree, I would have to also disagree. If a student masters their writing in their own voice, that student will then become more comfortable with their writing. I believe because of that, the student will continue to grow in their writing and want to explore various voices because they are no longer confused about their own voice. I love to practice writing in “someone else’s voice” and not writing in my own voice. However, the only way I was able to be comfortable with writing in someone else’s voice, I had to be comfortable with my own. It took me years to undo what my teachers had taught me but I believe it made me a better writer.

*Overall, what I learned from this article is that there needs to be a balance between teaching critical thinking and writing in your own voice.*

Reconsiderations: Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries by Peter Elbow: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=eng_faculty_pubs

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