Writers often worry that an editor will change or damage their writing voice. This can happen if you choose an inexperienced editor, but a good editor enhances your unique voice and lets it shine through.
What is a writing voice?
Just like in speech, each writer’s voice is unique. Your voice shares details with the reader about who you are and what you believe, which helps them connect with your work.
Everyone naturally has a writing voice but it may be weak or not what they want it to be. Successful writers create strong voices on purpose by making stylistic choices.
A writer doesn’t have the communication tools that a speaker has, like facial expression, movement, touch, smell, sound, sight. A writer only has words and must use them thoughtfully to create a strong writing voice that evokes the intended thoughts, feelings and imaginative response.
Writing voice examples
A sentence can be written in so many ways, each communicating the same information but using a different voice. Try these examples out:
- The guidelines recommend that healthy adults should exercise for approximately 2.5 hours per week.
- Exercise is vital. If you’re healthy, 2.5 hours a week should get your blood pumping and keep your body fit.
- Geez, 2.5 hours of exercise a week? What do they think I am, a gym junkie? Forget it!
Each example communicates that the recommended amount of weekly exercise is 2.5 hours, but each has a different voice. What can you infer from each?
- The first sounds to be an authority on the subject and quite formal.
- The second sounds like a fitness guru who is motivated and passionate about fitness.
- The third sounds like a young person who is passionately against exercise and who challenges the status quo.
Does an editor change my writing voice?
An experienced editor’s aim is to set your voice free. They use language rules as a guide to improve your writing, rather than as hard rules. This can sometimes mean purposely bending or breaking language rules and other times following them to enhance your voice. The key is making choices intentionally.
We write to communicate, and writing rules give everyone a standard to follow so we can understand one another. But who says you have to follow the rules? You choose what to say and how to say it. Editors simply help you make purposeful language choices to strengthen your voice.
The Australian Standards for Editing Practice by IPEd explains that ‘editors change only what is necessary to establish or preserve consistency’ in voice and tone. So you can rest assured that an editor’s goal is to improve your voice, not change it.
How does an editor enhance my writing voice?
A strong writing voice is:
Depending on which type of editing you choose, your editor will make suggestions to ensure your voice has these qualities.
Whether you choose substantive editing, copyediting or proofreading determines what your editor looks for in your work. Learn the differences between each in our Ultimate Editing Guide.
Clear and concise
As a writer, you want your readers to understand what you’re saying and engage with how you’re saying it. To achieve this, your voice must be clear and concise, so your editor will note any:
- Unnecessary words and ideas
Rather than trying to use as few words as possible in the pursuit of conciseness, make every word count. Five words might succinctly express your idea but 15 might make it light up in your readers’ minds.
Consistency is key. That’s all you really need to know. For example, if you choose to use:
- single quotation marks instead of double, do that all the time.
- whilst instead of while, do that all the time.
- a happy, bubbly and energetic writing voice, do that all the time.
Unless, of course, you don’t…
It’s really up to you to choose which rules to follow, so you might decide to be inconsistent.
The key is to make these choices intentionally based on solid reasons.
If they come across as accidental to your readers, your editor will find them and help you change them to strengthen your writing voice.
Even when you choose to be inconsistent, you must be consistent in your approach.
You might decide on a character that is fanciful in her head but a realist out loud, so you intentionally write in a fanciful, creative, imaginative voice when you write her thoughts but switch to an uncreative, realistic voice that lacks imagination when you write her spoken words.
This intentional use of inconsistency adds a layer of inconsistency in your character that is vital to understanding who she is. This is only effective if you make a strong distinction and avoid mixing them up.
Nothing spoils a good writing voice like unintentional errors. A good copyeditor will fix errors in:
A good writer knows who their readers are and speaks their language. Likewise, a good editor will notice and suggest changes if they notice that your writing doesn’t engage appropriately with your readers. Your work should:
- answer your readers questions
- help your readers with a problem
- entertain your readers.
Ultimately, your work should fill your readers’ needs; otherwise, why would they read it?
Noone likes repetition, nor do they like to be bored. A strong writing voice uses variety to create rhythm that engages readers. An editor will check that you mix long sentences and short sentences, vary sentence structure and play with word choice to keep your writing dynamic.
Finding Your Writing Voice
The nature of writing makes it near impossible to see any weaknesses in your own work. That’s why engaging a quality editor can help your writing voice emerge and be heard. As you go through the edits and discuss suggestions with your editor, you will notice the qualities of your voice and where it could be improved.
An editor doesn’t create your voice; they only find what is already there.
If you’re ready for an editor to enhance your own writing voice, ask us for a quote today.