NOTES on Voice and Diction


The writer’s voice is mainly just the style of expression that makes any given sentence or account identifiable as the work of that person. As we get to know each other’s “style,” each of us could probably say whose writing is whose, even without a name on it. In fact as we find our comfortable way of writing, the more we write, the more unique our style/voice becomes. It becomes as individualistic and identifiable as a finger print. Recall how the "UniBomber" was finally nabbed. It was through a linguistic analysis of his writing—that is the patterns of how language is used. These patterns are made of many things—big words, little words, technical terms, common words, uses of punctuation, sentence structure, tone, etc.  As each of us is a unique person, so each has a unique way of expressing their ideas. Even if we can’t say just how, we will recognize the writing of a favorite author or our best friend if we write each other often.


Finding each person's writing voice is like a painter or musician finding their own style. Often, that involves learning from established writers, painters and musicians—even trying out their style to find what feels comfortable for us—what fits for us. Listening to our inner selves and the way ideas present themselves in the telling of an account (any kind) will lead us to our own voice—sometimes sooner, sometimes later. But it is the authenticity of our telling that earns the regard and respect of the reader. Honesty is key. So is the ability to present material with clarity and with the vividness of the five senses as we perceive them, for technical accuracy and metaphorical comparison.

FYI--Voice also refers to a linguistic concept of expressing subject/verb directly (active voice) or indirectly (passive voice). Refer to the print or online grammar guides for more details--generally avoid the passive voice.... check it out.


Diction and Style: Diction in writing means simply, word choice.  There are several "levels" or kinds of diction that can all refer to the same ideas--some are very informal and some very formal, depending on the purpose of the writing and the intended audience. In English, there is a treasury of synonyms that enables a high degree of precision and creativity  of expression for almost any purpose. One of our challenges as writers is to learn to use this resource with the skill and invention that best conveys our meaning.

In general, "style" refers to a combination of voice and diction, as well as, the various stylistic/organizational requirements set by the academic or professional groups. 

Characteristic Levels of English Diction:  

    • The most current informal written diction may be: texting, emotions, etc. ?   then,
    • Conversational: Word choice and order are not strictly grammatical, often have lots of socio-cultural/regional expressions, terms and "slang." 
    • Informal: More standard grammatical structures--though many incomplete clauses and understood referents-- few Latinate terms, and this level is broadly understood by English language users.
    • Semi-formal: Uses more Latinate terms and conventional grammatical structures, but still includes ordinary, everyday expressions or terms.
    • Formal: Majority of terminology is complex and Latinate, the grammar and sentence structures are complete, complex and strictly conventional.
    • Technical/Scientific: most usages are strictly characteristic of particular disciplines or professions, including terminology unfamiliar to readers outside the specific field.

Using a thesaurus and a dictionary will help insure that diction is accurate, varied and suits the intended reader.

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