05 January 2016

"Voice" in technical communication and translation

"Voice" is a frequent topic of discussions among literary translators, also at their conferences and seminars. Today, Marcia Riefer Johnston brought to my attention the fact that "voice" is now discussed increasingly among business writers, content strategists, marketers and the like.

I think it is time that into-English technical writers and translators began thinking about "voice". So here are some comments and links to get you started.

Marcia Riefer Johnston — author of Word Up!, You Can Say That Again and the Writing.Rocks blog — has posted an excellent article on Help your organization find its voice. Read the article here or watch the video.

In her introduction, Marcia writes:
I didn’t appreciate the importance of voice in business writing until I discovered content strategy, a discipline that has emerged and evolved in recent decades to help organizations sort out their big, hairy content messes and manage their content as a business asset.
When I was invited last month to contribute a video to the GatherContent Content Strategy Advent Calendar video series, the topic of voice, well, called to me. Since many of you write for companies, I’m sharing the video, with permission, here. The transcript includes some links that I didn’t spell out in the video.
The section on What is voice? reads:
What is this thing called voice, anyway? What does it mean to say “your voice” or “your organization’s voice”? It’s a simple concept: it’s the way people talk. That includes the words that you choose when you’re writing or speaking. It includes the syntax—the order of the words. It includes the length of your sentences, it includes the sentence structures, it includes your punctuation, even. It includes the metaphors that you choose.
[Not included in the video: You might have heard voice referred to as tone of voice, voice and tone, or just tone. These terms are often used interchangeably. Some close observers of language usage consider tone a subset of voice. If you’re curious about this distinction, you won’t be able to stop yourself from jumping over to my full definition of voice—specifically, definitions 2 and 3.]
Marcia also points us to Speak with One Voice, a free ebook on this topic put out by Acrolinx.

In various posts on this blog — Quality angel, Customer-centred is the way to go, and (Commercial & technical) Translations that sing, to name but three — I have fumbled my way towards some related ideas, but Marcia and others she links to have expressed them more clearly and powerfully.

1 comment:

  1. Steve, Thanks for sharing my post and your thoughts on it. Your comment at the end makes my day. I hope that others will find value here, too.


Full circle

After completing a BSc in physics and maths in Australia and extended travels in Africa I found a job in Paris that left me with considerab...