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Ruddock, Doctor of Ministry Student


Assuming that voice comes naturally and therefore cannot be altered.While your spoken voice is inherently you, how you express that voice in writing is dependent on a number of choices that can and should be made with intentionality. • Not realizing that voice is as

important as purpose and audience.We typically learn about purpose in elementary school, and – if we’re lucky – we begin to consider audience in high school. A discussion of voice sometimes happens in late high school or college, but many writers never hear it at all, which is a shame. If purpose, audience, and voice are all equally important, how can you ensure that your approach to writing honors them all evenly and consistently?

Not recognizing the ways that voice can inspire or shut down an audience.We have all watched the eyes of someone we are speaking to slowly glaze over with boredom, anger, or irritation, even when we are begging them to keep listening, but once that wall goes up, it can be difficult to get the other person listening well again. What can you do in your writing

to ensure that the wall stays down and communication remains effective?


Exercise 16.1

Answer the following questions as thoughtfully and thoroughly as possible. 1. How old are you?

2. What is your gender?

3. What is your race and/or cultural background? 4. Where are you located, and where are you from? 5. What is your education level and economic status? 6. What primary religious beliefs do you hold? 7. What do you value? What are your interests?

8. Are you part of a specific group of people? What groups do you associate with, and how would other people classify you?

9. What biases do you hold? What misconceptions might you have about a particular topic or group of people, particularly considering your answers to the questions above?

10. What language or jargon do you use that others might not immediately understand? What terms will you need to define as you speak to others? What background information will you need to provide?

Exercise 16.2

Consider the following elements as you seek to define your own voice. How do you fare, and what would you like to improve or change?

2. sentence length 3. paragraph length 4. point of view 5. punctuation choices 6. emotional appeals 7. appeals to logic 8. storytelling

9. use of bullets, direct quotes, charts, or illustrations 10. humor

11. direct vs. indirect address 12. opposing arguments 13. conflict

14. authority

15. diction, syntax, and tone

Exercise 16.3

Consider a writing assignment you have completed recently, whether for work, school, or personal use. What was you purpose, and who was your audience? How would you describe your voice, using the language in the chapter above? Was your voice effective in achieving what you hoped to accomplish? Why or why not? If not, what revisions would you make?



While the three points of the triangle – purpose, audience, and voice – are important in determining how your voice will be heard, where your voice will be heard can be equally important. [Image: Fabien Barral | Unsplash]


A 21st Century Rhetorical Triangle


1. While the three points of the triangle – purpose, audience, and voice – are important in determininghowyour voice will be heard,whereyour voice will be heard can be equally important. Are you writing an academic essay, an online discussion forum, an email, an evaluation, a review, a blog, a post, an article, a letter, or a text?

Will your words appear on printed paper or on a screen? If they will be printed, will they be on paper, in a book, on a pamphlet or informational guide, in a magazine or journal, or on the pages of a newspaper? If they will appear on a screen, are they more likely to appear on someone’s desktop computer, laptop computer, iPad, TV, smart phone, smart watch, a large smart screen, or another device? How does the context affect how and what you will say?

2. Consider the visuals. How does the context affect the visuals that will either accompany or be incorporated in your work? Are short paragraphs and bulleted ideas preferable, or are longer paragraphs acceptable? Will there be pictures or graphics to augment your ideas, or do you need to spend more time offering specific images and details? Would break-out boxes make your ideas more readable, and how might that affect the flow of your ideas? As you consider the following options, weigh carefully whether their inclusion would benefit or detract from the influence of your words:

colored fonts

varied point sizes

strategic white space

bulleted listspicturesgraphschartsbreak-out boxeslive linksmusicvideosslidessound bitesinteractive mapsquestionnaires or surveyspop-up imagesmind-maps

When you include visuals, the information should not repeat what is already in your text. Always be mindful of how the two come together to create a more complex and persuasive whole.

3. Consider your tone. The more masterful we are at using technology to communicate, the more adept we are becoming atcode shifting. Even as we learn to

subconsciously shift the tone of our writing, it will always behoove us to be intentional in order to ensure that we are as clear and persuasive as possible.

For example, as you type an academic essay on your laptop while monitoring work emails on a desktop and occasionally checking social media on a smart phone, you shift your linguistic code with each new device and context. While you may not always need to remind yourself to monitor your tone as you move from a formal email to your boss to an emoji-based text to your spouse, you need to be careful not to slip between the two.Many of the components of voice apply here as well. How do each of these affect the impact you are hoping to have on your readers?

word choicesentence lengthparagraph lengthpoint of viewpunctuation choicesemotional appealsappeals to logicstorytellinghumor

opposing arguments



“Working with social