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What are Tough, Sweet & Stuffy Prose Styles?
In 1966, Walker Gibson theorized “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”:
- The Tough Talker
- “The Tough Talker, in these terms, is a man dramatized as centrally concerned with himself — his style is I-talk.”
- Prose style is concise and straightforward. Example: Hemingway’s prose.
- The Sweet Talker
- “The Sweet Talker goes out of his way to be nice to us — his style is you-talk.
- The prose style of advertisements and manipulative texts
- The Stuffy Talker
- “” The Stuffy Talker expresses no concern either for himself or his reader — his style is it-talk.”
How can I Tell if My Writing is Tough, Sweet or Stuffy?
Evaluate your work or the work of others for the following the linguistic attributes:
|1. Monosyllabic words||over 70%||60-70%||60% or less|
|2. Words of three syllables and more||under 10%||10-19%||20% or more|
|3. First and second person pronouns||1 I or we per 100 words||2 you per 100 words||no 1st or 2nd person pronouns|
|4. Subjects: neuters versus people||1/2 or more people||1/2 or more people||2/3 or more neuters|
|5. Finite verbs||over 10%||over 10%||under 10%|
|6. To be verbs||over 1/3 of verbs||under 1/4 of verbs||under 1/4 of verbs|
|7. Passive voice||less than 1 in 20 verbs||none||more than 1 in 5 verbs|
|8. True adjectives||under 10%||over 10%||over 8%|
|9. Adjectives modified||fewer than 1 per 100 words||1 or more||fewer than 1|
|10. Noun adjuncts||under 2%||2% or more||4% or more|
|11. Average length of clauses||10 words or less||10 words or less||more than 10 words|
|12. Clauses, proportion of total words||1/4 or less||1/3 or less||over 40%|
|13. “Embedded” words||less than 1/2 S/V combinations||less than half||more than twice as many S/V combinations|
|14. The definite article the||8% of total words||under 6%||6-7%|
|15. Contractions and sentence fragments||1 or more per 100 words||2 or more per 100 words||none|
|16. Parentheses and other punctuation||none||2 or more per 10 words||none|
- Elbow, Peter, “Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries” (2007). College English. 7. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.umass.edu/eng_faculty_pubs/7