Voice and style matter,
writers do best to approach them indirectly, with
their attention on other issues.
If they think about their style and voice as
they write, they may exaggerate or distort both.
Concentrate, instead, on matters such as
accuracy, clarity and simplicity. Concentrate on
the goal of making the work easy and pleasurable
for the reader. If writers do that, style and
voice will take care of themselves.
This advice isnít needed by writers who have
mastered their craft. Such writers have the
discipline to make conscious decisions about
voice and carry them off.
In any case, thereís nothing sacred about
voice and style. Never use them to defend bad
writing. Some writers do that because their egos
wonít let them admit the writing is bad or
because they are insecure.
They turn in copy that is turgid and stuffy
or, at the other extreme, sophomorically breezy.
Then they get all prickly if an editor dares to
tamper with it.
As a coach, I would rather work with almost
any other writer than one who prattles about
voice and style and canít face the least
Any writer has a voice. The question is
whether the voice is appealing. People wonít sit
in an audience listening to a speaker whose voice
is unpleasant, and readers wonít stay with a
writer whose work is boring or distracting.
If the writing isnít working, it needs to be
fixed. The way to fix it is to focus not on voice
or style but on the specific problems that mar
Is the copy deadened by cliches and deadwood?
Get rid of them. Are there strained similes and
labored metaphors? Cut them. Is the tone pompous
because the writer is being pretentious and
trying to show off his vocabulary? Rewrite, using
plain words and speaking conversationally to the
Fix the problems, whatever they are, and you
will find that style and voice are much improved.