Donald M. Murray on the importance of a writer’s voice …
“Voice allows the reader to hear an individual human being speak from the page. Good writing always has a strong and appropriate voice. Voice is the quality, more than any other, that allows us to recognize exceptional potential in a beginning writer; voice is the quality, more than any other, that allows us to recognize excellent writing. We respond to voice when we hear it. Voice gives the text individuality, energy, concern.
“Voice is, of course, closely allied to style or tone, but I prefer the term ‘voice’ for it seems more accurate and more helpful for the beginner. However we discuss style, it seems to get related to fashion. Style sounds like something you buy off the shelf. It is made by someone else and changes with the season. The term ‘style’ encourages the misconception that writing is inherently dishonest, that the writer has to say what someone else wants the writer to say in manner appropriate to someone else. But good writing is honest – honest in what is said and how it is said.”
Donald M. Murray in A Writer Teaches Writing: Revised Second Edition (Heinle, 2004). An appreciation of Murray, who died in December, was posted on this blog on January 1, 2007, and is archived with the posts for that month.