Styles of Writing

Style of Writing (or Styles of Writing) is

  • a categorization scheme, a description of recurring linguistic patterns (e.g. sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and mechanics) in a writer’s text.
    • Corpus linguists study bags of words to conduct sentiment analysis. This method enables them to identify words most frequently associated with a tone, such as satire, tragedy, transcendence.
    • Genre theorists look at common rhetorical elements clustered in a text
  • the linguistic patterns that characterize the text(s) of a particular writer or writers of a particular historical period or community.

Key Words: Genre; Rhetorical Stance; Persona; Register; Tone; Voice.

Communities of Practice, Discourse Communities, tend to share language practices. For instance, different professions and academic disciplines have their own style sheets and citation systems. Peer-reviewed literature in psychology and the social science often employs APA Style. In the humanities, scholars are most likely to use The MLA Handbook.

Over the years, linguists and writing stylists have theorized about a number of different prose styles. One clever categorization of writing styles was proposed by Walker Gipson (1966), who theorized three major categories of writing styles:

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

“The Tough Talker, in these terms, is a man dramatized as centrally concerned with himself — his style is I-talk. The Sweet Talker goes out of his way to be nice to us — his style is you-talk. The Stuffy Talker expresses no concern either for himself or his reader — his style is it-talk. These are three extreme possibilities: the way we write at any given moment can be seen as an adjustment or compromise among these three styles of identifying ourselves and defining our relation with others” (Gibson, 1966, p.x).

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.

One advantage to Gipson’s and Flower’s categorization schemes are that they are general enough to work across discourse communities.

More nuanced types of writing styles can be developed by analyzing the lexicals practices of writers working in particular discourse communities, communities of practice, including:

  1. Academic Prose Style
  2. Technical & Professional Writing Prose Style*

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