Authentic Voice and Bilingualism

There’s a lot of differing views about “voice” out there. And I think a lot of it comes down to definition. See, in general, one’s writing voice is the distinctive way one words their ideas. It encompasses verbiage and rhythm and vocabulary and all kinds of stuff you don’t even realize unless you study it.

In general, what you write is what you write. And expecting it to sound like someone else (favorite author, for instance) is unfair to you and your writing.

On the one hand.

On the other hand…

…part of developing as an artist is exercising your voice.

Singers push their voices to sing higher, lower, louder, softer, fuller, and so on. They study other singers and try out what those singers do. They listen to a variety of genre so they can not only master their own genre, but bring something individual to it. And sometimes they perform in a style that is not their own. They even study other languages to better understand their own.

Painters do the same. You can find some Picassos that look an awful lot like Monet. In the end, his voice was very different, but he knew the technique because he painted in the other style. Brush strokes. Color. Shading. And then he was able to better capture his own voice.

So for the sake of creative development, emulating the voice of another artist stretches your own.

But this is just in the type of writing often considered “art.” When you’re talking communication, that’s a different side of the story.

I’m a web writer. And each thing I write is a different piece and requires an individual voice. For instance, I can write two articles about the same safety precaution, but one uses warmer, sentimental voice, another uses a powerful, rough and tumble voice. Why such a difference? If you follow my writing, you should know the answer to every question is: know your audience.

But I am not necessarily writing to a different audience in these two pieces. I am, however, writing to a different part of my audience.

In this instance, I want men to feel like they’re taking care of their family. And I want their wives to buy in, too. But then I want men to feel like they are buying a monster truck. A gadget. Something super cool. They have precious people to protect (first article), and they’re strong enough to protect it (second article).

Because I understand the importance of voice, I am aware that my natural voice speaks most effectively to women and certain… perspicacious men. (That’s the best word I could find for this without ostracizing both men to which I am referring and men to which I am not.)

So when I write for men, which I do a lot–men in business, men consumers, men looking for jobs–I have to change my voice if I want them to listen to me. Some may see this as devious, lying. But if I want someone who only understands Spanish to hear what I am saying, I have to speak Spanish.

So if I want someone who speaks Manish to understand me, well, I gotta speak Manish, don’t I?


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