Why Voice is Important

One of my favorite things about this course was how every time we entered the classroom and began class discussion, we not only discussed the specific topic that was on the agenda for the day but also pulled in knowledge that we had acquired from previous class discussions. And by building connections between things discussed inside the classroom, we were able to build connections with things beyond the classroom. One of the ideas that seemed to be strung from discussion to discussion as a key connector was the idea of using your own voice in academic discourse. The concept of voice was brought up again when talking about original work in our plagiarism discussion. And this got me thinking, what exactly do people think of when they think of “voice” in writing? Voice being talked about in connection to originality makes me think that some people define voice with the age-old phrase used at the beginning of so many writing prompts, “In your own words . . .”. And while I agree that, yes, using voice in writing does mean using your own words, it is so much more than that. To me, voice means invention; it means creating a dialogue in your writing that facilitates a new conversation. A student could write an academic paper in their “own words” while not bringing anything new to the table. This distinction between original worlds and voice is important because, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.” It is imperative that students are encourage to use their own voice in academic discourse, because if they do not, academic discourse will no longer serve as a means for knowledge making—we would never discover anything new if we are too afraid to insert our own voices into the conversation.

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