Style refers to how something is written or spoken as opposed to what the writer is saying.
Aspiring writers may worry that achieving a style that invokes a sense of professionalism is something beyond their skills, something reserved for professionals who have honed their craft over the years or those blessed with inherent talents. This is not true. While creating sentences that make readers weep at the beauty may be reserved for epic poets, the average writer can create sentences that do more than simply convey information–and can do it by considering a few key elements.
All communicative acts are imbued with style. Even the bot that answers the phone when you call in to complain about your bill to Verizon Communications has a style: the fake nice cheerful voice so eager to help you! In face-to-face situations, event an inarticulate grunt is a style of communication.
Style, like coolness, is a composite of many factors. The style audiences infer from a rhetor’s messages are tied to multiple language practices. Style is impacted
- by the rhetor’s ability to use Concrete & Sensory Language, Figurative Language, and to engage in substantive discourse;
- by the rhetor’s ability to remain focused (i.e., coherence, flow, unity)
- by the rhetor’s ability to simplify content and express it concisely;
- by the absence or presence of errors with diction (word choice), mechanics, grammar, and punctuation.
Style matters. When a writer employs turgid, abstract, polysyllabic prose, readers click to a new text. Style matters. Style is about crafting texts that snag the reader’s attention and refuse to let go, texts that insist on being savored, texts that make the writing a pleasure to enjoy. While style concerns how a rhetor communicates as opposed to the gist of the message,
When during the writing process should you consider Style?
As a rhetor (writer or speaker), when you enter a communicative situation, consider what sort of style is appropriate for your audience(s). Consider, e.g.,
- What jargon and level of abstraction is acceptable?
- How about humor or satire? Should you hammer down a thesis in the first sentence or lead the reader down a path to a conclusion?
- Or, do you need to be more objective than persuasive?
In turn, when reading or listening to a rhetor, reflect on your perception of the rhetor’s style. What sort of voice do you hear?
- Does the writer seem to self absorbed? Does the world revolve around the writer’s emotions and thoughts?
- Does the writer sound sweet, like a salesperson who uses the you attitude to place the spotlight on your needs and concerns?
- Does the writer seem stuffy? Is the focus solely on the topic without references to his/her or your experiences with the topic?