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October 2009
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An Approach to Style

What do we mean by writing style? Every writer develops his or her own style as he or she gains more experience in writing. Style is much to do with word choice, with the choice of sentence structure, and with the rhythm of each sentence. Style is also an expression of the “self.” The writer expresses his or her thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a particular manner.

Borrowing from the Elements of Style, here are a few suggestions on how you can develop your own writing style:

  1. Place yourself in the background. Don’t invent a style. Write in a way that draws the attention of the reader to your writing, not to your mood or temper. As you become more proficient in the use of language, your style will improve.
  2. Write in a way that comes naturally. Use your own words and phrases. Don’t copy another writer’s style. However, it is acceptable to imitate certain elements of another writer’s style. Don’t pretend to be someone else.
  3. Work from a suitable design. Before you start writing, jot down a list of ideas you want to write about, or create an outline. Using a suitable design gives you a roadmap and a direction on how to get to the end of your topic.
  4. Write with nouns and verbs. Avoid using adjectives and adverbs. These clutter your prose. Instead, find the noun that best describes your subject and the verb that best describes the action of your subject.
  5. Revise and rewrite. Most writers don’t get it right the first time or even the second time. Usually, a good writer will need to experiment with word choice, organization, sentence structure, and so forth to get it right.
  6. Do not overwrite. In other words, make each word count. Avoid wordiness. Delete unnecessary words.
  7. Do not overstate. In other words, avoid the use of superlatives.
  8. Avoid the use of qualifiers, such as adverbs. These create clutter and wordiness.
  9. Don’t write in a breezy manner. This is writing whatever comes to mind. Instead write what is interesting and important to the reader.
  10. Do not explain too much. When you use dialogue, write “he said” and “she said”, without adding adverbs to explain how the speaker feels. Instead, let the dialogue itself show how the speaker feels.
  11. Avoid fancy words. Use plain language, or language that your readers understand.
  12. Be clear. You need to write to communicate what you are thinking. To do this, use the active voice, write with nouns and verbs, choose simple language, eliminate wordiness, and avoid using awkward sentence construction.
  13. Use figures of speech sparingly. The simile and metaphor can be used to entertain and make a comparison. But, using too many reduces their effect.
  14. Avoid foreign languages. Don’t sprinkle your work with foreign expressions that most readers won’t understand. Instead, write in English.
  15. Prefer the standard to the offbeat. Don’t use words that are “in vogue” or “faddish.” Don’t use jargon, such as business, law, government, or military language. Except for the readers who belong to these groups, most people won’t understand this language.

You will develop your style as you gain experience in writing. Furthermore, by using these suggestions, you can develop a writing style  that enables you to write clearly and concisely.


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