How To Describe Voice In Writing: Check Out The Top 82 Words To Use

As a writer, it’s your job to describe your story’s characters in a way that impacts the reader. Nobody is interested in dull characters without much to say. We want interesting, engaging, and unique characters to follow throughout the narrative.

The way these characters speak to and about each other is informative – it lets us in on the dynamic of the characters’ relationships. As a writer, you also have your voice – the style and tone in which you write. In this article, we’ll explore both meanings of the word “voice” as it relates to writing.

How to Describe Voice in Writing Using Adjectives and Simile

There are two types of voice in writing. 

There is the character’s voice – the way a character speaks, the quality of their voice, tone, and so on. 

Then there is the author’s voice – how the author writes the text, the message they try to send, and the stylistic means through which they try to convey it.

Let’s explore both in more detail. 

First, let’s look at some adjectives and similes an author may use to describe a character’s voice.

Adjectives to Describe a Character’s Voice

Writers have several ways to describe characters, from their appearance, values, and sense of humor. 

Their voice is one of the most fascinating and impactful yet incredibly underrated character descriptions. 

How does the character speak? How does their voice sound to others? Is it a deep voice? A husky voice? Has it been affected by a recent event, such as cold weather or shocking news?

How your character speaks, and the sound of their voice is a core part of their personality. It gives the reader a sense of the life the character has already lived. 

It also informs the reader about a character’s state – perhaps they’re frightened, so their voice is tight. Maybe they’re having an intimate moment with their lover, so their voice is soft and smooth. Perhaps they have to assert themselves, and their voice becomes strong and commanding.

When presenting a character, writers must consider voice and the many adjectives to describe it. Below we’ve included a list of adjectives you can use to describe a character’s voice.

A

Abrasive – an unpleasant or irritating voice

Accusatory – a way of speaking that suggests blame or criticism

Animated – lively, the character is expressive with their feelings

Appealing – indicates a desire to help or to receive help

Authoritative – a way of speaking that asserts power and control

B

Barbed – criticism or insult masked as politeness or a compliment

Barking – Yelling or speaking aggressively toward another person

Bitter – tone and words that suggest bitterness

Blunt – speaking plainly and directly without consideration of others’ feelings

Brash – Confidently rude or straightforward

Breathy – speaking with extra breath in the voice, usually soft

Brittle – easy to break, not flexible, the character may be about to cry

C

Calm – soft and centered, easy

Cheerful – with a sense of cheer or joy

Colorless – bland, dull, unvaried

Crisp – clear, compelling, and unwavering

Croaky – a strained voice, like a frog, rough, character may have a sore throat

Cutting – an unkind way of speaking, intentionally upsetting others

D

Demanding – speaking in a way that calls for attention

Disembodied – a voice without a body, coming from somewhere else

Disinterested – apathetic, lack of care about the conversation

Dulcet – pleasant, nice to listen to, melodious

F

Faint – soft, gentle, hard to hear

Fawning – speaking to people-please, seeking approval

Feeble – weak, show a character’s vulnerability

Fierce – a strong, unforgiving, and assertive way of speaking

Firm – strong, unwavering, confident

Flat – without variation or melody, dull, disinterested tone of voice

G

Gentle – soft, easy, caring voice

Grating – a harsh and irritating voice, unpleasant to listen to

Grave – serious and somber, a character shares some heavy information, a distinct lack of lightness or humor

Growling – speaking aggressively with a low voice, like an animal

Guttural – to speak with harsh sounds produced at the back of the throat

How To Describe Voice In Writing

H

Harsh – intentionally mean or critical

Hearty – energetic, cheerful, and loud voice

Hesitant – unsure, doubtful

High-pitched – high in pitch

Hoarse – strained voice, low and raspy

Hostile – unfriendly in nature, the character may have to defend themselves

Husky – hoarse, raspy

I

Impartial – and unbiased way of speaking, no sides taken on the subject matter

Insinuating – to imply a meaning, usually negative

J

Jeering – mocking, to deride, typically used to describe a crowd

Jubilant – to speak in a way that expresses joy

L

Lifeless – flat, uninspired voice

Lively – animated, energetic, excited

Loving – to speak with care and compassion for another

M

Malicious – to speak with the intent to be mean or upset someone

Matter of fact – unbiased, factual, cold

Monotonous – without variation in pitch, the same tone throughout

Muffled – hard to hear, unclear, the character may be behind a wall or wearing a mask

N

Nasal – to speak from the nose, too much or too little air trapped in nasal passages, the character may have a cold

Nonchalant – calm, easy-going voice, either uninterested or worry-free

P

Penetrating – a loud and direct voice, uncomfortable to listen to

Piercing – high-pitched, sharp voice, unpleasant

Pretentious – to speak from a place of perceived superiority

Q

Quavering – an unsteady voice, usually due to self-doubt and uncertainty

R

Raucous – a loud an, unpleasant voice, obnoxious

Robust – a deep, loud voice, strong and varied

Deep voice in writing

S

Saccharine – highly sentimental and sweet

Scathing – harsh and critical, from a character who feels angry 

Scornful – mean, critical, with intent to shame another person

Serene – calm, peaceful

Shrill – unpleasant, loud and high-pitched, exaggerated

Silken – soft and smooth

Sincere – to speak with authenticity and truth, soft yet firm

Smoky – low and raspy voice, may be sexually attractive

Snide – to speak in a way that insults through a clever or witty comment

Somber – serious or sad voice

Staccato – to speak with extra punctuation in the voice, such as a guttural pause before each word

Suave – smooth and seductive, charming

Subdued – quiet, shy, not assertive

T

Taut – nervous sounding, tight voice

Tender – to speak with gentleness and genuine care

Thunderous – roaring, booming, to shout or talk loudly with a significant impact

Trembling – shaky, nervous voice

V

Vague – to speak with specific conviction, mysterious

Velvet – soft and silken voice, smooth

Venomous – to speak with insults or claims about another person, the character is angry or bitter

W

Wavering – a shaky voice, one of doubt and uncertainty

Weary – tired, exhausted, low effort in the voice

Whiny – to speak in a complaining tone, typically nasal

Similes to Describe a Voice

Writers don’t rely exclusively on adjectives to help them describe voices. 

Sometimes they portray how a person’s voice sounds by comparing it to something else. Such is the use of simile – a standard literary device that conveys a more profound sense of meaning beyond the words expressed.

Similes evoke vivid images that encourage a greater understanding of the character and how they communicate.

Check out the following examples of famous authors using a simile to describe someone’s voice.

“Voice like dark brown velvet.” ~ Josephine Tey

“Voice, cruel as a new knife.” ~ George Garrett

“Like melting honey.” ~ Jimmy Sangster

Now let’s discuss the second type of voice in writing…

Words to describe voice in writing - Use your voice

The Author’s Voice

The author’s voice is their writing style. 

Even though a writer will use an adjective to describe a character’s voice, using that particular adjective is an expression of the writer’s creativity. 

They have chosen that adjective over its synonyms because the word felt right and evokes strong images, feelings, or memories.

“A writer’s voice is not character alone, it is not style alone; it is far more. A writer’s voice line the stroke of an artist’s brush- is the thumbprint of her whole person- her idea, wit, humor, passions, rhythms.” 

– Patricia Lee Gauch

Other elements of the author’s voice include:

  • Their tone
  • Their use of grammar and punctuation
  • Even the subject matter about which they choose to write

Voice is what sets the greatest authors apart from the rest. It’s a valuable tool that, once honed, can help an author hook a reader and carry them on the story’s journey with consistency.

Conclusion

Describing voice, whether it’s a shrill voice, one that sounds hoarse, or maybe like melting honey, helps the readers hear the characters in a way that immerses them in the story. They come to understand the characters in an emotionally evocative way which gives them a more visceral experience of the narrative.

Over time, authors tend to develop their writing voice. Sure, they may draw from an extensive list of adjectives and similes to describe their character’s voice, but their creative voice shines through the work. 

Essentially, we hear a character’s voice in the lines themselves, and we hear the author’s voice by reading between the lines. Both can contribute to an entertaining read.

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