A lot of online resources will tell you exactly what you want to hear: Finding your writing voice is as easy as tying your shoes. All you have to do is write like you talk! And everything will be great! Before you know it you’ll be sliding down rainbows and petting unicorns!
This, my friends, is only part of the solution. The idea behind writing like you speak isn’t to directly interpret your crazy, floating, narcissistic verbal upchuck through your keyboard and onto the screen. There is a method to the madness, to be sure.
Rule #1: Use Punctuation When Writing (You Do When You Speak, Even If You Don’t Realize It)
Here is an example of a blog post excerpt of rambling ridiculousness (which was actually sent to me by an acquaintance who asked me to “look it over” and “give a few pointers” and “punch him in his face”). I added the last part, but it’s still a valid sentiment.
So im really looking forward to this summer because I have some friends coming into town you know how that goes haha. Gonna be a lot of time at the lake, lots of bbqs and tons of time hittin up the bars and some girls. I’ll be workin a lot too but its all good. Gotta make that money ya heard!
If you read that and don’t see anything wrong, please proceed to walk to the nearest wall and bang your head against it, repeatedly, until you don’t remember your name.
When you speak, you have a certain cadence – a way you typically deliver your sentences. Maybe you have a dramatic pause, or perhaps you tend to end your sentences with a higher note. Whatever your delivery in speech may be, you need to relate that in your writing.
Rule #2: Think About Your Readers, Or They Won’t Think About You
I don’t lay claim to being a wordsmith whose literary wizardry rivals the likes of Hemingway or Vonnegut – although, you are free to pay me such a compliment if your conscience wills you to do so.
However, I do believe I understand the basic tenets of effective writing which, in essence, conveys your ability to articulate your thoughts and beliefs in a manner that others find understandable. There are hundreds of ways in which my acquaintance’s excerpt can be rewritten, but here is one example:
It’s been a pretty phenomenal month so far. Summer is here, which means good things are in store. First off, I have some friends coming into town – which means we’re going to be spending lots of time at the lake. Which means we’re going to have some killer post-lake BBQs. Which means we’ll keep the party going while we hit up the clubs. I’ll have to work a ton, too, but I need to stack that cheddar to show my friends a good time!
Now, you might detect a slight hint of douchebaggery there, which I like to think is an extension of my acquaintance. But it is one example of writing like one speaks – maintaining the integrity of one’s vernacular and diction, but making sure it falls in line within a commonly accepted and understood structure.
Rule #3: Write. Revise. Review. Rinse and Repeat.
The best information I’ve ever received to improve my writing is simply to read aloud what I have just written. Reading aloud is the simplest, most effective method for editing all of your content.
It helps you identify areas where your verbiage gets clunky, where sentences don’t flow, and, most importantly, reading aloud is the most accurate measurement of how much your writing reflects your speaking style.
While it is the simplest measure available, most people will never read aloud because they feel it is unnecessary, irrelevant or just plain stupid. Of course, when I am presented with obnoxiously poor writing, the first question I ask is “Have you read this aloud?” Without doubt, the answer is no. After I make the person read through once aloud, they immediately correct the majority of mistakes and inefficiencies themselves.
So remember that no piece of work is perfect. The final paragraph of “The Sun Also Rises” is said to have been rewritten by Hemingway at least 200 times. Always review your writing, and always read it aloud at least once.
If you follow these basic steps, you will be well on your way to finding your writing voice. Your readers, old and new, will appreciate your commitment to bettering your craft.