The Difference Between Voice and Style in Writing

Q: Could you define the difference between a writer’s voice and style in creative writing?—Ralph G.

Here’s the breakdown: Voice is your own. It’s a developed way of writing that sets you apart from other writers (hopefully). It’s your personality coming through on the page, by your language use and word choice. When you read a Dave Barry column, you know it’s his. Why? He’s developed a distinct writing voice.

Style is much broader than voice. Some writers have a writing style that’s very ornate—long, complex and beautiful sentences, packed with metaphors and imagery (think Frank McCourt and John Irving). Others have a more straightforward style—sparse prose, simple sentences, etc.

Here’s one way to think about it: WD tries to have all its articles fit a similar style—conversational yet straightforward. But between the covers, each piece is written by a different author whose own voice colors his particular piece. So the continuity of the magazine stays together, but each piece is still different.

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8 thoughts on “The Difference Between Voice and Style in Writing

  1. ChasHarris

    Well said, very simple and practical. However I’d like to add two things. One is that as amberautry rightly says voice and style are far the best when they arise naturally and should not be worried about. Voice comes from being truthful and reaching for the very clearest way to express a thought or an emotion. As does style. Trying to be clever or “stylish” always ends up false and can be seen through by the reader.

    On the other hand it is possible for one person to use different voices and styles in different stories or novels. Henry Fielding is an example. You may, for example, adopt the voice of a particular character, or even narrate in the third person but take on a specific voice – eg: that of a satirical raconteur – for one book and another – say, more serious voice – for a second.

    Clearly this applies to style just as much. Part of the fun of it for me is finding out what voice is right for a particular story, and who the invisible “writer” is – who is both Charles Harris and yet not Charles Harris.

    Charles Harris
    <a href="http://www.screen-lab.co.uk&quot; ScreenLab Blog

      1. amberautry

        Thanks for your comment. I figured it came naturally, but I still worried that it wasn’t shinning through. Maybe the fact that so many editors say they are looking for new voices help that worry. I’m going to stop thinking about it and keep doing what I’m doing. Write and write some more.

  2. amberautry

    Hi,
    I think I understand voice and I know I understand style, but I always hope my voice is shining through. I figured if I write how I want then my voice should be there. For example: When critique partners try to correct something that I know I like it my way so I keep it my way. Is that voice?
    Does voice come naturally? And am I too worried about it because it does come naturally?

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