Your Voice, Their Language

There are a couple of big Milestone Moments you should celebrate when you’re on the road to becoming a Professional Doer of Words.

The first is a really big deal, no matter what your particular mode of writing expression happens to be (whether it’s advertising copy, or greeting cards, or graphic novels, or whatever): it’s when you find your voice. 

After you’ve been writing for a while, there will come a time when it all just clicks, and you’ll suddenly find that you’re writing in a way that is uniquely your own.  A way that feels comfortable and natural.  A way that your readers will come to recognize.

When that happens, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate and celebrate it.  Yay you!

But there’s another milestone that frequently gets overlooked.  In fact, in many cases it isn’t even recognized as a goal worthy of being achieved.  It’s when you’re able to adapt your voice to speak your audience’s language.

Think about your favorite joke.  You know, the one everybody loves about the guy with the moose and the shotgun.  If you don’t know that one, it’s okay because I totally just made it up.  You might tell that joke one way when you’re sitting around with your best pals from college, and quite a different way to your professional colleagues at the country club.  Same joke, but tailored to suit the sensibilities of the current crowd.  (As a side note, NEVER TELL THE MOOSE AND SHOTGUN JOKE AT A COUNTRY CLUB.  I did that once.  Once.)

Flexibility in your writing is a great thing to strive for.  If you’re a Professional Doer of Words, you’ll most likely find yourself getting paid at some point to write something targeted at a different audience than the one you’re used to.  It might be a change of medium – when you’re asked to write a movie treatment for your novel, for example.  It might be a change of genre, when you decide to go from writing high fantasy to a modern military thriller.  Or it might be when you’re using your ninja-like word skills to make some extra cash writing copy for a website.

In those cases, no one’s asking you to sell out your artistic integrity or to be something you’re not.  But they do want to be able to understand what you say.

Your voice, their language.


  1. says


    …this is fucking brilliant. If you don’t mind me saying so. I’m going to add this little gem of wisdom to my discussions with the various students and apprentices that I speak with.

    Because it is True. Thanks for this, Jay.

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