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What Are the Types of Voice in Writing?

Developing a “writer’s voice” is critical to establishing a way of communication that is uniquely your own. For many writers, their voice is exactly the way that they talk – at least at first. Over time, the tone, dictation, and structure of the writing evolves into something that is 100% unique. It’s one part your personality, one part how you speak with others, and one part imagination.

This can be presented in one of three different ways: first-person, second-person, or third-person voice. Let’s take a look at the differences between these three voices right now.

Writing in a First Person Voice

This is the type of writing voice where the singular pronouns are personal in nature. This means you’re writing from the standpoint of “I.” If you are using a plural pronoun, then you would use “we.” Either one can be used as the subject of the sentence.

Here’s an example of first-person voice. “I am looking forward to reading more about this subject because we can all learn something from it.”

Notice that both “I” and “we” can be used at the same time.

This type of voice is typically used for some level of autobiographical writing. Memoirs, essays, blog posts – they all have this voice commonly used as well. Certain novels also get written with this voice when the story is a personal narrative for a specific character. Where you won’t find this type of writing is within journalistic writing or in academics because it makes the information being conveyed seem like it is less objective.

You’ll also find pronouns like “my,” “mine,” and “ours” commonly used with this particular writing voice.

Writing in a Second Person Voice

This particular piece of content is written in second-person voice. That’s because this voice is used to address each specific reader who is accessing the words being written. This is the voice you actually use for virtually all of your communication to others. It uses pronouns like “you” and “yours.” You’ll also be using this type of voice when writing correspondence, either personal or business, like in an email or even a social media post.

If you’re creating a presentation for business or schoolwork, you will often be required to use this voice. The personalization it offers helps the information to be conveyed with more accuracy to the recipients.

Technical writing may also be in this voice, especially when providing step-by-step instructions to complete a task.

Writing in a Third Person Voice

This is the type of writing that will typically be seen in fictional stories. It is also the usual format that you’ll find for academic writing. It uses the pronouns “he,” “she,” or “it” when referring to specific nouns. The reason why this voice is used in this instances is because it allows the reader to “watch” the action as if they were there in person.

“Their” and “Theirs” are also commonly used when writing in the third person.

Why Knowing Your Voice Is Important

The problem that readers have sometimes is that a writer may inadvertently switch which voice they are using. Say you’re writing a novel and the first third of the novel is in first-person voice. Then you have a chapter that moves to third-person voice, but then you return to the first-person voice. When this occurs, you’re changing how the reader engages with the story.

It moves from being a personal experience to an outside-looking-in experience [or in reverse if you move from third-person voice to first-person] and that makes it difficult to follow along.

Now sometimes you can move from third-person to second-person voice. A great example of this occurs throughout the Netflix series House of Cards when Kevin Spacey’s character looks directly into the camera to address the audience in the middle of a third person narrative. In this type of situation, the goal is to draw the reader more into the thinking process of the character with a conversational tone, something that can’t always be done in third-person, so it works.

So as you find your voice, remember that writing in first-person means it comes from your point of view. Second-person voice addresses the audience or the reader. The third-person voice is told from an outside point of view. Then add those elements to your own style and you’ll be able to develop your own writer’s voice.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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