Writer’s Voice and Reader’s Perspectives

Writing in my voice is important. It seems like everyone is always trying to get me to write in their voice, make me write the way they think is good writing. Writing the dialogue in a story confuses people, so they tell me to write something else, to “show, don’t tell”. But what does that even mean? How do I show without telling within dialogue? Within a story, you have to explain the narrative in order for the audience to know what is going on.

Reading about voice is its own strange thing because, what’s the difference with voice in writing? I procrastinate often, so my pre-existing notions about voice in writing comes from my perspectives on other writers. Those perspectives show me that voice in writing changes constantly.

Reading is a activity that switches between easy and difficult because the text and the context of the text switches up in its style. Reading for school is harder than reading for leisure because the word choices and speech patterns are academic, meaning that they are tailored to scholars who read in a specific expert way. They can read and understand scientific words and write well using said scientific words. Readers who read for leisure or read educational works on their own time seek out things they can understand easier, things that won’t use words that are mainly used in academic settings. Words that everyday people understand are the ones that will catch readers’ attention.

The voice in these works switch between academic and informal when the context changes. For me, the voice I read in a book will reflect in my head depending on the context. When I read an educational text for school I get frustrated because the voice is trying to make its point in a way that doesn’t make sense to me. When I read an educational text for myself on my own time, the voice makes sense to me because the works I seek out are straightforward and detailed in their explanations. Also, schoolwork makes me procrastinate because I don’t like my major, so my motivations dictate the voice I read.

Prosody in Voice

Voice and Writing

Although Peter Elbows’ voice in writing again: embracing contraries theory is a tad complex to understand, what I have comprehended from this reading is how he argues two sides of the coin relating to reasons for attending to and not attending to voice in texts. He states that when readers hear a voice in a piece of writing, they are often more drawn to read it—and that audible voice often makes the words easier to understand (7). And we should pay lots of attention to the voice in all of the ways he described. But he also argues that we should not pay attention to voice—in all the following ways (10). In essence, the schools of thought sound somewhat wishy-washy.

Additionally, Nancy Sommers’ revision strategies of student writers and experienced adult writers in that one problem student writers usually had during her research was vocabulary; the students do not try to expand their vocabulary (381), and adult experienced writers do; they try to persuade with their vocabulary (385). However, I find that Sommers’ how it stands in comparison to a writer’s voice and how her theory equates to Elbows.’ Nevertheless, one thing is for certain: Dr. David D. Paige from Northern Illinois University provides a different kind of take regarding reading fluency: a brief history, the importance of supporting processes, and the role of assessment is worth adding to the conversation.

While reading fluency has been extensively studied as an independent reading process, it is better thought of as an outcome of multiple, lower-level reading skills that, when functioning synchronously and efficiently, result in a smooth, expressive reading that’s critical to understanding the text. Moreover, Dr. Paige brings to light how reading fluency has been through multiple conceptualizations. They include the rapid reading of individual words, reading words correctly, the speed at which one can read connected text, and reading with expression. Fluent reading, he states, is now conceptualized by reading scholars as a construct composed of three facets, or indicators, which include 1) the rate of one’s reading, 2) the accuracy at which words are pronounced, and 3) the Prosody (meaning expression) in one’s voice that brings a text to life. While the indicators are individually identified, they work interactively to produce a fluent reading. For example, the rate or pace with which one reads often simulates, to a loose extent, the pace of spoken language. Correctly pronouncing individual words is important to maintaining a smooth rate. Otherwise, the reader must stop to analyze and determine how to say the word, which breaks the smoothness of the reading. As in speech, Prosody is important to understanding the various interpretational nuances of the text, as it is in a conversation. Imagine speaking with someone who talks in a flat, monotone voice (p. 1). Fun fact: reading instruction in early America emphasized the oral reading of text. Several book series, such as McGuffey’s Eclectic Reading Series (1853), were popular as resources for learning to read; for instance, the first step to be taken by one who desires to become a good reader or speaker is to acquire a habit of distinct articulation. Without this, the finest voice, the utmost propriety of inflection, and all the graces of articulation fail to please (2). Thus, Dr. Paige’s argument delivers validity to the voice in reading and writing.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, fluent reading as an instructional goal became largely ignored. In a seminal article in 1983, Allington noted that while students often lacked fluent reading, it was rarely addressed with fluency instruction; rather, teachers tended to focus on the improvement of word automaticity. While word automaticity is important to fluent reading, students must still learn to read words in connected text and become familiar with syntax that tends to become increasingly sophisticated as text complexity increases across grades (5). Because of its importance to academic success, Dr. Paige firmly insists fluency assessment should take place across the elementary and middle school grades to be certain students are attaining the ability to read the increasingly complex texts necessary for college career-ready reading achievement. As mentioned at the beginning of this overview, fluent reading reflects the extent to which a student has acquired the reading processes that underpin fluent reading. This means, for example, that an assessment of the reading fluency of a fifth-grade student may determine it to be less than adequate (8). Furthermore, a fluent reader is more likely to benefit from both the vocabulary acquisition that occurs through reading and the growth in global knowledge that is one of the foundations of reading comprehension. As student writers are capable of discovering and creating new things, we need to change and use these capabilities Prosody to persuade students and experienced writers to voice within texts. 🤔

Unraveling a Contradiction

After last week’s reading by bell hooks, this week’s readings were a return to a more demanding, academic style of writing that required more focus from me. As I waded into Peter Elbow’s text, “Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries,” I encountered many unfamiliar names, so I grew concerned that I would be lost unless I researched every unknown person. Eventually, though, I saw his point, and it was an interesting one. Elbow wants his readers to “engage in two contrary activities: paying lots of attention to voice and pushing away considerations of voice” within the same piece of writing. While his argument is interesting, I think that it’s difficult to put off acknowledging a finding during your first reading because you know you’re not supposed to address it until your second reading. Elbow’s recommendation to both pay attention to and ignore voice might be a huge challenge for many readers (7).

In “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers,” Sommers shares her findings on how different types of writers engage in revision. Had I read her article in isolation, it would not have occurred to me to look for similarities between revision and voice, but I noticed them when reading Sommers’ article on the heels of “Voice in Writing,” by Elbow. For instance, when Sommers examines the approaches of the experienced writers, she finds that they initially focus on getting “closer to their meaning” at first, then later address “vocabulary and style” (386). The writers are engaging in “two contrary activities” in their writing, focusing only on meaning at first and then only on developing their voices. The writers celebrated by Sommers are employing the tactics recommended by Elbow. Sommers seems to agree with Elbow’s position on how to approach voice in writing. 

As we move through the readings in this class, I am learning more about what I need from them. When we read articles solely about theory, I feel unfulfilled; I always have a desire to know how the theory would actually be put into effect. When I can see an idea move beyond theory into practical application, it is much easier for me to understand. This week, Elbow presented a theory, and I felt the familiar urge to know how that story would end in real life. Luckily, Sommers’ article was there to fill in the blanks.

Voice & Revision

Hello everyone! Welcome to episode 8 of the T-Money show! Today we have 2 special guests. Voice & Revision. 

Let’s welcome Voice to the stage.

So the first thing about voice is that he is tragically misunderstood. How does one define voice in writing? In the article Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries by Peter Elbow, he defines voice as having two characteristics 

“Sincerity. Sincerity isn’t the same as good writing; it can be awful and tinny. But sincerity is one style or voice, and it is useful for some occasions, if it’s believable.” (Elbow 9) and “Resonance. When I am reading a text of some length, I sometimes sense bits of what I want to call “resonance”: I experience them as pieces of added weight, richness, or presence—even if they are bits of irony, play, metaphor, or even silliness.” (Elbow 10)

If we use sincerity and resonance as a starting point for voice, we can see that when a piece of writing has a voice, it contains some of the personality of the author. In creative works of writing, voice is safe to experiment with. But in my own life, I struggle to find a voice in academic writing. For example, when writing a research paper, how does one find a voice that is unique? How many articles have we read for school that are dull, mechanical, and boring? Is this because voice and academic writing don’t go together? Or is the voice of academic writing old and outdated? 

The next guest is someone who is feared by many. Please brace yourself for revision strategies !

Nancy Sommers compared the revision strategies of student writers and experienced writers in her article “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers”. She found “Unlike the students, experienced writers possess a non-linear theory in which a sense of the whole writing both precedes and grows out of an examination of the parts.” (Sommers 386). This is important to note because it tells us that revision is not something we can put into a neat little box. We can’t say something like revision is: writing a 1st draft, editing it, writing a 2nd draft, etc. Rather revision is a dynamic process. You can go back and forth between editing your draft line for line and rearranging the order of your paragraphs. You could write one draft and then write a second draft where the only changes were adding and subtracting paragraphs to make your argument stronger. Just because something like editing spelling and grammar are part of the revision process, does that mean that they have to be done for the 1st draft. The final draft is the only one that everyone reads so remember that all of your drafts can contain mistakes during the revision process. 

Your paper is a leaky boat with 6 holes pouring in water. Let’s fix 2 holes with the 2nd draft and 2 more with the next draft. Progress, not perfection.

On the contrary……

Honestly, I was not expecting to read this week’s reading with a massive migraine, so this might not be the most intellectual blog I’ve written. As I was reading “Voice In Writing Again: Embracing Contraries” by Peter Elbow, I absolutely kept losing myself in the reading. But not in a good way. The way Elbow was writing, plus my migraine was most certainly not helping. Anyways, Elbow brings up Aristotle’s position on “Voice”, where he mentions “Either/Or” (5) thinking. Either/Or thinking is essentially whether you choose to use voice in your writing, or you don’t. As a writer, it is solely up to you to figure out what your writing piece is missing, and how you can make it better. Maybe it was Aristotle’s old way of thinking, which is why he opposed this “Either/or” thought. Personally, whether you’re writing a blog post, or a thesis paper, a voice will appear. Although some papers may want the writer to hold back from being opinionated, at the end of the day, the writer does have a voice. Similarly when Professors know a student has cheated on their essay, knowing it wasn’t written by them, because it does not sound like the student. Every person has their own way of writing, therefore having their own voice. Peter Elbow makes it clear that writing with a voice can be bad sometimes, but also good at the same time. For me, I believe that it is how you use your voice in writing. Right now youre reading this blog and wondering why is she being so passive aggressive? Well, because I am letting you understand that voice to me is very important in writing, and Aristotle may or may not have pissed me off with his old thought process. However, Elbow mentions a good point when he mentioned “ Women have traditionally used anonymous publication to prevent their words from being read as “female.” Even when anonymous or pseudonymous writing has a strong voice, the technique still avoids that single most vexed dimension of voice— the link between the words on the page and the person of the actual author” (12). Essentially being a woman in any industry is difficult. I can understand why some women would rather not be categorized with their work. Women are often subjected to being overly emotional or many people say “This sounds like a woman wrote it”, just because it makes deep connections. 

Next we dive right into Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers by Nancy Sommers. A quote Sommer’s had said stood out to me tremendously. “Most of the students I studied did not use the terms revision or rewriting. In fact they did not seem comfortable using the word revision”. She followed that with mentioning how the students associated the word “Revision” with something their teachers used to say. For me, revision alway felt like a chore or that I was about to feel judged somehow. I grew up hating revision time, and first drafts that would be filled with red pen marks from my teacher. I never usually add the revision step in my writing process because it comes naturally as I go. I will read over my work, but I won’t have 3 drafts of my paper with marks all over it. Sommers dwells on the fact many students don’t change their work completely, rather they make their “Voice” stronger. Student’s will try to avoid repetition, or being too overly cliché. If we’re trying to combine revision and voice, how would someone feel if they are writing a paper with “Voice” and are told to revise everything? Does their own voice need revision? It’s a weird phenomenon that just bubbled into my mind.