Testing your voice

In writing and speaking, “voice” means your instantly identifiable style.  It is a combination of word choice, philosophy, level of formality, and other factors, such as local or age-appropriate slang.  The following exercise challenges students to use someone else’s voice, which will illuminate their own voice for them, I hope.

Exercise: Each student must write a personal statement. The facts in it will vary according to what kind of community the class exists in. Here is the way I will fashion it this fall for a class of multi-lingual international university students.

Para 1:  Write where you live or come from, including two specific details: for example, “I live in Hoboken, New Jersey, can see the boat traffic on the Hudson River from my window, and cannot put plants on my balcony because the winds are so strong.”

Para 2:  Where do you see yourself twenty years from now?

Para 3:  Write down two things that nobody else in the class knows about you; this might be an accomplishment, a hobby, a dramatic episode in your life, your relation to another person, your moment of fame or heroism, or maybe something that you like or do which would not seem cool, like playing badminton or enjoying the singing of Tiny Tim.

Now have each student pass this to his or her neighbor, who, after reviewing it carefully, will recite it as if he or she were the person involved.

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