Guy reading paper and making written comments.

Transforming the Inner Voice to the Outer Voice

It’s my first English class of undergrad and I receive feedback for my first assignment. I see a sea of red ink littered with the dreaded “awk”.

“There’s nothing awkward about my writing!” I burst.

This professor must hate me. She’s letting us do second drafts, but I struggle to even look at her words. I decide to start small and try to understand what the professor means by the first “awk” sentence.

“Taking life a day at a time is how I think it should be done to be happy,” it reads.

What’s so awkward about that? I read the sentence again and again but I can’t figure it out.

My English major roommate is out, so I can’t ask her to read it. I click the “Accessibility Toolbar” in Microsoft Word and activate “Read Aloud”. If I read the first draft out loud, I can probably stomach the feedback and catch hiccups.

As the robot voice speaks my words to me, I pause on the “awk” sentence. Something sounds off. Though these are my words, they don’t sound like it or like anything other people say.

Experimentally, I type “Taking life one day at a time will make people happy” and have Word read that to me. This time the sentence sounds conversational. I could imagine sitting in a room with another person. The first time the voice spoke to me, the conversation was passive and vague, as though the voice could not commit to taking a stance. Now, the voice takes an active stance, clearly informing me about their idea rather than alluding to it.

I edit the rest of my paper in this way and have been for every assignment since. I haven’t spotted a single “awk” on writing feedback between then and now.

Antoinette Wiley

Rachel Frank

Virtual Writing Center Staff