PhD Progress & Thoughts

Writerly ‘Voice’

I recently received feedback from one of my supervisors on a draft. They requested that I develop my ‘voice’, and then elaborated no further.

As an incredibly verbose person I benefit very little from simple statements with no context or guidance. This is something that this supervisor has yet to work around, and something that I look forward to fixing.

So I investigated what ‘voice’ is, and why it needs to be developed. I have worked on becoming succinct, and academic. I have developed the ability to write creatively and professionally; writing essays, leaflets, presentations, a dissertation and many organisational documents. And yet I had never considered what my ‘voice’ was, or how to develop it.

How do you improve something that has become so ingrained into your subconscious that you cannot comprehend how it forms?

English is both my native language, and the language I have been taught to use over the past 23 years. I have studied grammar, spelling, different sentence patterns and syntax from varieties of English users that I have interacted with. Writing, reading and communicating in my native language takes such little brain power on my part that it now becomes difficult to explain certain concepts and uses that non-native speakers understand – such as how English sentences are structured and why there are so many exceptions to the ‘rule’.

I believe that this reflection is an exercise in self-awareness and analysis of how, and why, I use my native language the way I do. Am I overly influenced by the authors whose work I read? Most definitely. Can I learn to follow a guidebook? Of course.
Do I have a better understanding of what my supervisor wants, now that I have searched the concept and done some individual research on its use? Not at all.

So, I shall book a meeting with my supervisor and ask them what they meant, bringing with my all of my work to show them that I at least attempted to resolve the request independently. Perhaps I’m over-thinking and it was as simple as ‘getting to the point’ in my paragraphs.

When I find out, I’ll let you know!


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