What Is Style?
Style is an important element in all writing. Even purely
informative writing such as an owner's manual can benefit
from a style of writing that is easy to follow and clearly
emphasizes significant ideas. Writing styles vary with the
subject matter, the writer's purpose, and the intended audience.
In describing an auto accident in a letter to a friend you
would use language differently than in writing a report to
your attorney or an insurance investigator.
Style refers to word choice, sentence structure, and the
use of imagery. Style helps shape the writer's tone, presence
in the writing, and attitude toward the subject:
A Government Report:
The Pacific Convention Center, to be located at 1500
Front Street, will be financed by private investment, state
loans, and federal grants. The proposed structure will cost
$250,000,000 and eventually employ 1,200. Construction and
design decisions will be made by the Joint Commission of Development.
A Newspaper Review:
The Pathetic Convention Center opened last night, demonstrating
just how badly too many cooks can spoil the broth. The plush
carpets and imported chandeliers are impressive separately.
Together, however, they clash like items bought at a yard
sale. The building is an awkward conglomeration of oddly shaped
rooms that are too small to accommodate the conventions the
city desperately needs to attract.
- Style in writing, like a style of dress, communicates
personal status, values, attitudes, and the desire to conform
to or resist standards.
- Style should be fashioned to make a favorable impression
- Style reflect the writer's role. Objective documents such
as a research paper or business report are weakened by the
kinds personal references or expressions that add authority
to reviews or personal essays.
- Style -- especially word choice -- is critical in addressing
sensitive issues. The way you express a response to a complaint
letter could resolve a dispute or encourage a consumer to
file a law suit.
- Academic disciplines and professions often dictate the
style of writing expected in their publications. In many
instances personal pronouns (I or me) are considered inappropriate
because they detract from a sense of objectivity. Examine
the styles of writing used in your textbooks. Do you see
differences in word choice based on the discipline?
- Spelling and grammar checkers on computers cannot identify
phrases using inappropriate styles. If you are unsure
about the style of your writing, show a sample to your instructor.