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What does it mean when people talk about voice when referring to someone's writing? Is it his/her specific point of view? or Can two people have the same point of view and different writing voices?

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You should begin by telling us your research on this ... what happened when you typed "writer voice" in Google, and why do you want more than that? –  GEdgar May 28 '12 at 0:21
    
Thanks I will type "writer voice" in Google Thanks again! –  jan May 28 '12 at 0:47
    
A specific example that prompted you to ask the question would also be helpful. Grammatical voice, writer's voice, and character's voice could all be used when talking about someone's writing; it's not clear which one you mean. –  Cameron May 28 '12 at 1:51
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You might try searching for voice on Writers Stack Exchange. –  JLG May 28 '12 at 4:40
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3 Answers 3

In terms of writing, "voice" can mean several different things, depending on unpredictable variables.

  1. It can mean "point of view", as Matthew points out. This is a visual metaphor
  2. It can also mean "agency or lack of agency", in a metaphor with the Latin (Inflected) Passive Voice (which does not exist in English). This is a grammatical metaphor.
  3. It can also mean — and this is the way I use it, at least, in writing about writing — the imagined voice of the author that the reader hears in their Mind's Ear as they go along. I read Terry Pratchett's books, for example, in what I fondly hope is a Buckinghamshire/Somerset accent. And I hear commas as intonation curves. This is an auditory metaphor.

Clearly, not everybody reads the same way. Literacy is modern technology — not naturally-evolved like real language — and not everybody realizes yet that writing is just transcribed speech — i.e, "voice". Everybody, as we all know, develops their own ways of dealing with technology, and writing is no exception.

Thus, I'm certain that I'm missing some senses. But the metaphor is clear:

WRITING is SPEAKING

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Well you certainly have a unique "written voice" - I don't think I've ever seen anyone else here on ELU use capitals that way in highlighted link text! What with all the other font formatting, your style here comes across as (almost wearily) spelling things out for your dullard scholars! You've said it here before, and I thoroughly agree - to a first approximation, writing is a form of speech. But there can be a "literary" dimension to writing that's some ways distant from normal vocal speech. –  FumbleFingers May 28 '12 at 4:47
    
There are no doubt as many voices as there are people. Probably more. I wouldn't know about literature, only about writing; I tend more towards the crafts than the arts, I think. As for my written style, I try to write like I talk, as far as I can reproduce it. –  John Lawler May 28 '12 at 15:25
    
Oh, almost forgot: the link capitals (small caps by preference) are fairly standard practice in talking about Metaphor Themes. –  John Lawler May 28 '12 at 15:32
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Yeah, but I'm prolly way off-beam - in my "mind's ear", I imagine you sounding a bit like like a latter-day Richard Feynman. I find his style so "audience-engaging" that I truly believe I'm understanding every single word while he's actually speaking. It's only when someone asks me to explain it afterwards that I realise I haven't really grasped very much. But at least I can feel confident that he knows what he's talking about - theoretical physics is in principle comprehensible, even if it's too hard for me as a dilettante. –  FumbleFingers May 28 '12 at 21:53
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(I am though quite prepared to believe that language is more complex than quantum mechanics! :) –  FumbleFingers May 28 '12 at 21:54
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Usually 'voice' means the 'point of view' that the prose is meant to convey.

So, for example, 'stream-of-consciousness voice' is meant to give you the thoughts of (usually) the narrator, from moment to moment. 'Character voice' is meant to convey that this is one person's (i.e. "character's") version of a story, where the character may or may not be central to the plot unfolding.

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[Written] Voice: An author’s unique style and way of saying things. You should be able to recognize an author’s written voice the way you recognize a person’s spoken voice. In creative writing, one goal is to develop your written voice. Your voice should come across as natural, clear, and consistent, as unique to you as a fingerprint. Wordiness, awkward use of language, awkward sentence structure, and lack of clarity all serve to muffle the voice of the author.

In writing as in speech, "voice" is about how you express yourself - style, rather than substance.

A writer's "point of view" on any specific subject isn't necessarily relevant to how he expresses his views. If Ernest Hemmingway had ever changed his opinion about bullfighting and decided to disparage it, any such writing would still embody his distinctive "written voice" (characterised by short precise phrasing, omission of peripheral details, etc.).

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