In this paper voice will be defined as a function of three things: the person in which the piece is written, the tone, and the audience the piece is meant for. In first person writing, either the writer’s impressions or the writer him/herself is the subject of the writing. Essays in the second (you) person tend to be didactic, that is they teach people or show them “how to,” or imperative or hortatory, that is they exhort the audience or command them to do something. Works written in the third person (“one”, “he”, “she” or I include here the third person plural, “they”) are about a subject other than either the writer or the writer’s point of view. The first person plural (technically the fourth person) is used most in speech writing and works to express community or union with the reader or audience. With this as an introductory definition of “person”, students can be taught to recognize types of writing and how to choose the appropriate voice when they themselves write. Lessons that illustrate this point will be the focus of this paper.
Voice also entails what some who write about language and writing call “tone”. The author’s tone is a reflection of the author’s personality, mood, attitude toward his/her subject, the author’s intention or point of writing (whether to amuse, inform, persuade, etc.) and of the author’s intended audience, among other things. Tone is conveyed mainly through l)the writer’s vocabulary (from colloquial to technical) and through 2) sentence length. For each piece of literature read or written in class, tone should be discussed and, in writing, should be appropriate to the writer’s intention and his/her intended audience, or those addressed by the writing.