Tag: written voice

Style guide

Kurt Vonnegut was a writer of some repute. His guide to stylish writing is worth familiarising yourself with.

  1. Find a subject you care about
  2. Do not ramble
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Have guts to cut
  5. Sound like yourself
  6. Say what you mean
  7. Pity the readers

Good tips for blogging I reckon.

Tip 6 came with this little gem… for more detail about the other points read the article.

My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable — and therefore understood. And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

He’s also written eight tips for writing short stories:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

His master’s voice

Did you know that HMV, the music shop, is so named for the famous picture of a dog and gramophone featured on the record above. It’s called “His Master’s Voice”.

This could easily be a post about guidance and the “voice of God”. Based on the title, anyway. But it’s not. It’s about my job.

My CEO is leaving soon. She’s been here for five years. I’ve been here for three. In that time I’ve learned her “voice” to the point that I can write quotes for her without them being chopped and changed. I used to get a fair bit of red pen scribble on my draft releases. Now I get none. Or not much. If I do it’s because I’ve been too heavy handed in my haranguing of politicians.

We’ll no doubt have a new CEO soon. This presents a problem. A new CEO means having to master a new voice. And more red pen. I hate red pen. I feel a bit like the dog in that painting – who was apparently listening to his dead master’s voice on the gramophone.

The reason I write this now – is that I’ve just written a media release with some quotes from a former manager at Townsville Enterprise – whose voice I used to write also. And she said “that’s just the way I would have said it”. Which is nice. It seems once you’ve learned a voice it’s like learning to ride a bike.

Incidentally – I use blogging as much to develop my written voice as I do to procrastinate. It’s useful. Particularly for one so accustomed to the weasel words of corporate media speak.

Do you have a “voice”, written or otherwise?

I’m not sure how to define “voice” – it’s about style, choice of words, length of sentences, nuance, emphasis, syntax, and phraseology. Some of those things are the same. Others are different. There are certain words, particularly adjectives, that often pop up when I’m writing for particular people.