Strategically engage in the language practices of effective communicators:substantive prose, concision, clarity, flow, and unity. Distinguish between topic-focused, audience-focused, and rhetor-focused styles. Understand diction, grammar, and mechanics. Replace vague language with concrete, sensory, figurative language.

Style refers to

  • how something is written or spoken as opposed to what the rhetor (writer or speaker) is saying.
  • how a rhetor communicates as opposed to the gist of the message.

Style matters. When a writer employs turgid, abstract, polysyllabic prose, readers click to a new text.

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.

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.

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.

Readers do not want to have to play guessing games with your paper to figure out your main points and arguments, and readers should not have to work hard to figure out what you mean. While much of the success of a well-written essay has to do with having an insightful thesis that is well supported with a cogent synthesis of evidence or sources with appropriate transitions and a logical progression, style and grammar should not be overlooked.

Not many people are grammar aficionados, but effective writers still consider themselves to be knowledgeable of the rules and conventions of style, mechanics, and grammar. Not everyone is as great at identifying grammatical errors as he or she may think, but being aware of the rules and conventions of grammar inevitably improves the clarity of papers. Not only that, but the “grammar check” function on some word processors does not catch all grammatical problems, especially pronoun-antecedent agreement issues.

Style is a subjective, rhetorical element:

Rhetors may aspire for a specific stylistic objective (e.g., concision).Yet the audience may perceive their text to be verbose.
Rhetors may believe they have accomplished their intended rhetorical stance (e.g., an academic tone)Yet the audience may find rhetor’s stance offensive.

Style: Global & Local Perspective

Style is a composite of multiple language practices that are forged at both

  1. the Global, Macroscopic, Rhetorical Level
  2. the Local, Microscopic, Linguistic level.
Global Perspective Local Perspective
A rhetor’s style is shaped by the absence and presence of specific Rhetorical Appeals, and Rhetorical Devices, Rhetorical Modes. The balance of logos to ethos and pathos impinges on style.

The Rhetorical Stance a rhetor adopts via Persona, Tone, and Voice largely defines how audiences talk about the rhetor’s style.

When Rhetors engage in the processes of scholarship (e.g., they develop substantive discourse that substantiates knowledge claims according to information literacy conventions) they project a learned, professional style.

When Rhetors employ genre conventions, their prose identifies them as members of a discourse community.

A rhetor seems smart and focused when she maintains control of the purpose, thesis, research question and maintains a coherent, logical flow.

A Rhetor invokes a professional style by using of concrete & sensory language, figurative language, concise language.

Rhetor invoke a sense of competence and commitment by avoiding errors of Diction, Grammar, Mechanics, Punctuation, Sentences.

Style @ Writing Commons


Diction refers to word choice. Diction is the chicken broth to a rhetor’s style: Words can be tough, sweet, stuffy. Words can be condescending, too formal or informal, too technical or too simplistic. Diction is highly correlated with high grades in school settings.

Elements of Style

The Elements of Style refers to stylistic or linguistic attributes associated with highly prized language practices.



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