Choosing a Voice
Part of the choice you have to make when you choose a topic is the voice in which the paper is to be written. Voices are extensions of people, and, like people, they have different viewpoints and opinions. None is objective. Thus the topic of your paper will be closely related to the voice in which you choose to write. A paper denouncing the awful sexism of Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest will have a different voice from one analyzing the metaphors of flowers in Emily Dickinson. Too many students take for granted that any college paper has to be in a pompous professorial objective voice. This is a mistake. In an effort to prevent this horror, some professors go to great lengths to stress the importance of writing in your own voice. This is good advice, but it can be a bit simplistic. Most of us, after all, have several different voices. We speak one way to our peers, another way to our boyfriends or girlfriends, and a different way altogether to the cop who pulls us over on the highway. Which one is truly us? And in this paper, which audience are we trying to reach?
Despite what you may have heard in the school yard, very few of us teachers really want to see students assume our voices and regurgitate our words back at us. When we do get such papers, we carefully turn the pages with rubber gloves and breathe through our mouths to avoid the smell. We are embarrassed. We might sigh and tell ourselves that at least the student was paying