Plus, you may choose to be notified when my new book launches, "The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day"!
Voice, Style, Tone: these tools of the writer can help you engage the modern reader. Ignore recent changes in reading preferences and reader’s needs at your peril!
Modern readers are strapped for time. Authors of the 19th and 20th centuries had the luxury of readers who often liked to work hard to understand a work. Working the brain served as entertainment.
Nowadays, outside of academics, readers want you to make it easy for them. They have less time to read. They often multitask and don’t focus in the same way. And they’re used to being entertained. They also often want to experience something, rather than just be fed instructional information without context, nuance and integration.
Today’s tips will help you fine tune your voice, style and tone to support the modern reader, her habits and her needs.
Pepper your writing with stories and examples that make information easy to grasp.
In a recent phone conversation with a client, I pointed out that her manuscript was largely instructional. She asked me, “What’s wrong with instructional?” Nothing. However, if a work is almost all instructional, it can wear the reader down. Pacing helps. Mix the instructional with the tips below.
Stories help readers take in more information and integrate it.
Voice refers to the characteristics that come through your writing: your personality, the tone and style, how you engage your readers and more. Voice is not necessarily something we can always pin down and people experience voice differently and can harbor varied opinions about a writer’s voice. So, what follows is my take on voice.
You may write with an academic voice, which tends to have complex sentences, more abstract thoughts, passive voice and a preference to certain sentence structures.
Or you may write with a more conversational voice meant for a trade audience, with shorter sentences, more active verbs, and more varied sentence structures. A conversational voice can tend to have more humor or entertainment than an academic voice (though I am generalizing here).
You convey style by:
Your style may tend to be descriptive, narrative, prescriptive, or persuasive. But style is more than that. It’s
You may be familiar with the classic book by Strunk and White, The Elements of Style. In this brief and engaging book, two brilliant writers offer their years of experience and sage advice, still applicable over 50 years later.
Tone is your attitude to the work, how you express yourself. Is it serious? Playful? Scientific? Intellectual? Nurturing?
How do you convey tone?
In choosing a tone, consider your audience. Not sure who your readers are? Here’s how to choose and understand your audience.