A writer’s style sets his or her writing apart and makes it unique. Style is how writing is dressed up (or down) to fit the specific context, purpose, or audience. Word choice, sentence fluency, and the writer’s voice — all contribute to the style of a piece of writing. In literature, the writing style expresses thought in language characteristic of an individual, period, school, or nation. Beyond the essential elements of spelling, grammar, and punctuation, the writing style is the choice of words, sentence structure, and paragraph structure used to convey the meaning effectively.
Elements of style
Many elements of writing contribute to an author’s style, but three of the most important are word choice, sentence fluency, and voice.
Good writers are concise and precise, weeding out unnecessary words and choosing the exact word to convey meaning. Precise words — active verbs, concrete nouns, specific adjectives — help the reader visualize the sentence. Good writers use adjectives sparingly and adverbs rarely, letting their nouns and verbs do the work.
Good writers also choose words that contribute to the flow of a sentence. Polysyllabic words, alliteration, and consonance can be used to create sentences that roll off the tongue. Onomatopoeia and short, staccato words can be used to break up the rhythm of a sentence.
Sentence fluency is the flow and rhythm of phrases and sentences. Good writers use a variety of sentences with different lengths and rhythms to achieve different effects. They use parallel structures within sentences and paragraphs to reflect parallel ideas but also know how to avoid monotony by varying sentence structures.
Good writers also arrange their ideas within a sentence for the greatest effect. They avoid loose sentences, deleting extraneous words, and rearranging their ideas for effect. Many students initially write with a loose oral style, adding words to the end of a sentence in the order they come to mind. This rambling style is often described as a “word dump,” where everything in a student’s mind is dumped onto the paper in no particular order. There is nothing wrong with a word dump as a starting point: the advantage of writing over speaking is that writers can return to their words, rethink them, and revise them for effect. Tighter, more readable style results when writers choose their words carefully, delete redundancies, make vague words more specific, and use subordinate clauses and phrases to rearrange their ideas for the greatest effect.
Because voice is difficult to measure reliably, it is often left out of scoring formulas for writing tests. Yet voice is an essential element of style that reveals the writer’s personality. A writer’s voice can be impersonal or chatty, authoritative or reflective, objective or passionate, serious or funny.
Four Types of Writing
A writer’s style reflects his or her personality, unique voice, and way of approaching the audience and readers.
However, all piece writers write for a specific purpose—for example; writers may want to explain how something works or persuade people to agree with their point of view. While there are as many writing styles as there are writers, only four general purposes lead someone to write a piece, and these are known as the four styles, or types, of writing. Knowing all four different types and their usage is important for any writer.
Here are the categories and their definitions:
Expository writing’s main purpose is to explain. It is a subject-oriented writing style, in which authors focus on telling you about a given topic or subject without voicing their personal opinions. These types of essays or articles furnish you with relevant facts and figures but do not include their opinions. This is one of the most common types of writing. You always see it in textbooks and how-to articles. The author just tells you about a given subject, such as how to do something.
- Usually explains something in a process.
- Is often equipped with facts and figures.
- Is usually in a logical order and sequence.
When You Would Use Expository Writing:
- Textbook writing.
- How-to articles.
- News stories (not including opinion or editorial pieces).
- Business, technical, or scientific writing.
Descriptive writing’s main purpose is to describe. It is a style of writing that focuses on describing a character, an event, or a place in great detail. It can be poetic when the author takes the time to be very specific in their descriptions.
- It is often poetic in nature.
- It describes places, people, events, situations, or locations in a highly detailed manner.
- The author visualizes what he or she sees, hears, tastes, smells, and feels.
When You Would Use Descriptive Writing:
- Journal or diary writing
- Nature writing
- Descriptive passages in fiction
Persuasive writing’s main purpose is to convince. Unlike expository writing, persuasive writing contains the opinions and biases of the author. To convince others to agree with the author’s point of view, persuasive writing contains justifications and reasons. It is often used in letters of complaint, advertisements or commercials, affiliate marketing pitches, cover letters, and newspaper opinion and editorial pieces.
- Persuasive writing is equipped with reasons, arguments, and justifications.
- In persuasive writing, the author takes a stand and asks you to agree with his or her point of view.
- It often asks for readers to do something about the situation (this is called a call-to-action).
When You Would Use Persuasive Writing:
- Opinion and editorial newspaper pieces.
- Reviews (of books, music, movie, restaurants, etc.).
- Letter of recommendation.
- Letter of complaint.
- Cover letters
Narrative writing’s main purpose is to tell a story. The author will create different characters and tell you what happens to them (sometimes, the author writes from the point of view of one of the characters—this is known as first-person narration). Novels, short stories, novellas, poetry, and biographies can all fall in the narrative writing style. simply, narrative writing answers the question: “What happened then?”
- A person tells a story or event.
- Has characters and dialogue.
- Has definite and logical beginnings, intervals, and endings.
- Often has situations like actions, motivational events, and disputes or conflicts with their eventual solutions.
Examples of When You Would Use Narrative Writing:
- short stories
- Autobiographies or biographies
Looking to develop your writing style?
For the most part, a confident and mature writing voice is honed from years of servicing the craft. As such, it isn’t surprising to find younger writers struggle to find their own personality in words. But the good news for young writers is that it is now much easier and possible to develop extraordinary writing styles.
There are many recommended approaches to developing a writing voice, such as performing specific techniques or writing with specific aims. Regardless of your particular strategy, it’s usually tough to develop a confident style until you have exposed yourself to the styles of good writers.
While you probably do not want to imitate another writer’s style, reading the work of writers with strong voices is necessary for almost everyone looking to evolve their craft. supplement your writing with plenty of reading, focusing on those whose prose style you can truly admire.
Even when you don’t consciously take notes or critically study the works of talented writers, just the experience of reading them can train you in unique ways. You will see how they use their specific talents to facilitate clear and vibrant text – some of which you will likely see yourself emulating and building on in your own writing.
Do remember, though, that style should be coupled with correct mechanics and proper syntax – things that competent writing software should be able to help you with. You can pack all the humor and personality you want in a piece, but if your grammar is wrong, the reader won’t likely even have the chance to appreciate it