A Lesson by LadyKarissa

This section is about Style In Creative Writing


Writing style is the manner in which a writer chooses among different strategies to address an issue and an audience. A style reveals the writer's personality or voice, but it also shows how she or he sees the audience of the writing. The writing style reveals the choices the writer makes in syntactical structures, diction, and figures of thought. Similar questions of style exist in the choices of expressive possibilities in speech.1

The position of a writer and his or her concept of the audience impose style constraints on the writing style. Scholarly writing, for example, usually avoids figures of speech and prefers precise descriptions to colloquial terms that might be found more often in more familiar forms of writing, such as text messages or personal blogs. News reporting requires precise words, even if colloquial, and shorter sentences, to be easy to read by a general audience. Fiction writing, in contrast, is designed to entertain and arouse the reader and is improved by the judicious use of figures of speech. A judge's verdict needs to explain how the verdict corresponds to other rulings, but often uses literary devices to persuade the reader of its correctness.2

A writer can combine personal style with the expectations of the audience, but many choices may be too personal. A scientific paper with excessive personal style may make the reader question its seriousness; a news article with excessive personal style may make the reader doubt the author's neutrality. Fiction written in the customary style of a scientific paper would not keep the reader interested. Notes in class, text messages and personal blogs are better occasions for personal and more familiar choices in style.
Situation and purpose
The writer needs to tailor style to the situation. For example, the same person writing a letter to the same reader would use a different style depending on whether it is a letter of complaint, a letter of condolence, or a business letter. The author needs to decide whether the goal of the writing is to inform, persuade, or entertain.3

Stylistic choices
Sentence forms
A writer controls not only the density of prose but its distribution. Within the rules of grammar, the writer can arrange words in many ways. A sentence may state the main proposition first and then modify it; or it may contain language to prepare the reader before stating the main proposition.4

Varying the style may avoid monotony. However, in technical writing, using different styles to make two similar utterances makes the reader ask whether the use of different styles was intended to carry additional meaning.5

Stylistic choices may be influenced by the culture. In the modern age, for instance, the loose sentence has been favored in all modes of discourse. In classical times, the periodic sentence held equal or greater favor, and during the Age of Enlightenment, the balanced sentence was a favorite of writers.
The loose sentence
The most common sentence in modern usage, the loose sentence begins with the main point (an independent clause), followed by one or more subordinate clauses. For example:6

Uncle Tom's Cabin is a very influential novel, having its self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality, much in common with Little Women'.7

The cat sat on the mat, purring softly, having licked his paws.8

According to Francis Christensen:9

The loose sentence ... characterized the anti-Ciceronian movement in the seventeenth century. This movement, according to Morris W. Croll [“The Baroque Style in Prose,” (1929)] began with Montaigne and Bacon and continued with such men as Donne, Browne, Taylor, Pascal. To Montaigne, its art was the art of being natural; to Pascal, its eloquence was the eloquence that mocks formal eloquence; to Bacon, it presented knowledge so that it could be examined, not so that it must be accepted. (in Winterowd, 'Contemporary Rhetoric: A Conceptual Background with Readings,' p.348)10

The periodic sentence
In contrast, a periodic sentence places the main point in the middle or at the end of the sentence. In the former case, the main point is modified by subordinate clauses before and after its position in the sentence. In the latter case, the main point is modified by preceding subordinate clauses.11

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. (Henry David Thoreau)12

The purpose of such form is well-stated by Adams Sherman Hill in The Foundation of Rhetoric (1897):13

To secure force in a sentence, it is necessary not only to choose the strongest words and to be as concise as is consistent with clearness, but also to arrange words, phrases, and clauses in the order which gives a commanding position to what is most important, and thus fixes the attention on the central idea.14

The balanced sentence
A balanced sentence is characterized by parallel structure, two or more parts of the sentence have the same form, emphasizing similarities or differences.15

Depending on the mode in which the writer is writing, diction can also pertain to the writer's style. Argumentative and expository prose on a particular subject matter frequently makes use of a set of jargon in which the subject matter is commonly discussed. By contrast, narrative and descriptive prose is open to the vast variety of words. Insofar as a style of diction can be discerned, however, it is best to examine the diction against a number of spectrums:16

Abstract-concrete: how much of the diction is physical?
General-specific: to what degree is the diction precise, to what degree is it vague?
Other attributes of diction include:17

The connotation of a word refers to the special meaning , apart from its dictionary definition, that it may convey. Connotation especially depends on the audience. The word "dog" denotes any animal from the genus canis, but it may connote friendship to one reader and terror to another. This partly depends on the reader's personal dealings with dogs, but the author can provide context to guide the reader's interpretation.18

Deliberate use of connotation may involve selection of a word to convey more than its dictionary meaning, or substitution of another word that has a different shade of meaning. The many words for dogs have a spectrum of implications regarding the dog's training, obedience, or expected role, and may even make a statement about the social status of its owner ("lap dog" versus "cur"). Even synonyms have different connotations: slender, thin, skinny may each convey different images to the reader's mind. The writer should choose the connotation, positive, negative, or neutral, that supports the mood.19

Writing for the learned, connotation may involve etymology or make reference to classic works. In schoolbooks, awareness of connotation can avoid attracting extraneous ideas (as when writing "Napoleon was a bigger influence than Frederick the Great on world history" provokes thoughts of Napoleon's physical stature). In encyclopedias, words should connote authority and dispassion; the writer should avoid words whose connotations suggest bias, such as pejorative words.20

Punctuation is now so standardized that it rarely is a factor in a writer's style. The same is true for gratuitous changes to spelling and grammar, unless the goal is to represent a regional or ethnic dialect in which such changes are customary.21

Some figures of speech are phrases that briefly describe a complicated concept through connotation. However, some of these phrases are used so frequently that they have lost their novelty, sincerity, and perhaps even their meaning. They are disparagingly referred to as clichés or bromides. Whether a given expression has fallen into this category is a matter of opinion. A reader who knows, or is a member of, the target audience may have a strong opinion that one or the other alternative seems better-written.22

Fawcett, Susan (2004). Evergreen: A Guide to Writing With Readings. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-618-27387-5.
Polking, Kirk (1990). Writing A to Z. Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 0-89879-556-7.
Rozakis, Laurie (2003). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style, 2nd Edition. Alpha. ISBN 1-59257-115-8
Shaw, Harry (1965). A Complete Course in Freshman English. Harper & Row.
Strunk, William and E. B. White. (1959). The Elements of Style. MacMillan Publishing Co. ISBN 0-02-418220-6.
Watkins, Floyd C., William B. Dillingham, and Edwin T. Martin. (1974). Practical English Handbook. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-395-16822-8.
Williams, Joseph (2007) Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Pearson Longman ISBN 032-147935-1 ISBN 978-032-147935-8
Zinsser, William (2001). On Writing Well. Quill. ISBN 0-06-000664-1.
(This my THIRD article on Creative Writing. I have listed everything you need to know in each article. The more details the better.23


Next Lesson


Subscribe Subscribe


5 Subscribers
Added on June 7, 2011
Last Updated on June 7, 2011
My Rating

Login to rate this




My name is Lucie Elizabeth Ann Wesson. I am 56 years old white female. I was born Lucie Annalen Wesson but I changed my name on my confirmation day April 6, 1996 to Lucie Elizabeth Ann Wesson when I ..