Styles of Writing: picture of an open book showing old maps

pic of an old book

Styles of Writing: picture of an open book showing old maps

What are Styles of Writing?

Like Types of Writing or Prose Styles, they are

  • the linguistic and semantic conventions that characterize a writer’s work or the work of multiple writers–i.e., the work of a discourse community/community of practice.
  • a subject of study
    • Corpus linguists engage in qualitative research and quantitative research regarding language use.
    • Fiction writers study the work of other novelists and short story writers working in similar thematic spaces.
    • Genre theorists look at common rhetorical elements clustered around language practices

Key Words: Genre; Rhetorical Stance; Persona; Register; The Elements of Style; Tone; Voice.

What are Common Writing Styles?

Not surprisingly — given the complexities of human communication — there are many different kinds of writing styles. And, there are many different ways to define and categorize these methods (aka styles of writing or prose styles.)

And, It could be argued we all have our unique styles of writing—and communication—based on our literary histories, writing spaces, and experiences.

However, common types of writing are easily identifiable. They may be categorized by linguistic and rhetorical patterns.

Linguistic Patterns

Stylistic conventions may be categorized by various linguistic patterns (e.g. sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and mechanics) and semantic patterns (themes, tropes, archetypal stories) in written discourse.

Rhetorical Patterns

  1. Academic Writing
  2. Personal Writing
  3. Reflective Writing
  4. Rhetorical Modes
    1. Causes & Effects
    1. Classification
    1. Comparison & Contrast
    2. Definition
    3. Description
    4. Exemplification
    5. Exposition
    6. Narration
  5. Persuasive
  6. Workplace Writing
    1. Writing in Engineering
    2. Writing in the Health Sciences
    3. Writing in Science
    4. Writing in Social Sciences

In Writing Studies, Linda Flower (1979) proposed a categorization schema for discussing student writing that is wildly popular in the U.S among the writing studies community:

  1. Writer-Based Prose Style
  2. Reader-Based Prose Style

For Fowler, a reader-based prose style “creates a shared language and shared context between writer and reader” whereas a writer-based prose style uses abbreviated, self-centered, informal, vague language—i.e., language that is personally meaningful to the writer but not the reader.


For Walker Gibson, the universe of discourse “can be seen as an adjustment or compromise among these three styles of identifying ourselves and defining our relation with others”:

  1. The Tough Talker
  2. The Sweet Talker
  3. The Stuffy Talker.

How Should I Consider Styles of Writing When Composing or Reading the Works of Others?

You can determine the best writing style for a given rhetorical situation by engaging in the following composing strategies:

  1. Identify the register.
  2. Find out if you need to follow any particular style sheet, templates, or citation style.
    • Companies often invest significantly in branding, and that branding includes guidelines for templates, logos, and images.
  3. Adopt a rhetorical stance
    1. Determine your perspective, point of view, persona, voice, tone
    2. Consider diction
      1. Use of figurative language
        1. use of Metaphor, Personification, Simile—these elements of figurative language can help your readers can better imagine and visualize your message
      2. Eliminate archaisms, biased language, clichés, jargon
      3. Be aware of the connotations of your words and idioms.