Student Question

"I've read I should use a casual voice. How do I avoid not sounding formal?"

My Response

I like your question because it makes me think about what voice is, exactly. If someone asked me what "sounding formal" means, I would think of a sentence like this:

"Formal tone might be achieved through the use of passive voice, long sentences, and extra adjectives and adjectives, a point that can be illustrated by extending this tremendously tedious sentence."

So if you want to make your tone more casual, consider these ideas:

1. Use active voice. "I hit the ball," not "The ball was hit by me."

2. Use sentence variety. If you have a bunch of long sentences, throw in a short one. If you have a bunch of sentences with commas, throw in some sentences without commas.

3. Rely on verbs, not adjectives and adverbs. If you choose the right verb, you can cut down the clutter of those wonderfully superfluous adjectives and adverbs (yes, like wonderfully and superfluous).

If you follow these 3 suggestions, your writing will take on a more casual tone. But the real challenge might be less about style and more about substance. These essays are hard because they require you to reveal your personality in 500 words or fewer.

Before you worry too much about tone, make sure you're writing about a topic that will leave the reader thinking, "Hey, I really like this kid!" If you keep this big-picture goal in mind, and if you use active voice, sentence variety, and active verbs, I think you'll find the right tone.

Final Thoughts

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Jonathan M. Perkins Private College Counselor 424 646 3828 |