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  Home > InfoWrite > The Writing Process > Style

InfoTrac College Edition


What Is Style?

Style is an important element in all writing. Even purely informative writing such as an owner's manual can benefit from a style of writing that is easy to follow and clearly emphasizes significant ideas. Writing styles vary with the subject matter, the writer's purpose, and the intended audience. In describing an auto accident in a letter to a friend you would use language differently than in writing a report to your attorney or an insurance investigator.

Style refers to word choice, sentence structure, and the use of imagery. Style helps shape the writer's tone, presence in the writing, and attitude toward the subject:

A Government Report:

The Pacific Convention Center, to be located at 1500 Front Street, will be financed by private investment, state loans, and federal grants. The proposed structure will cost $250,000,000 and eventually employ 1,200. Construction and design decisions will be made by the Joint Commission of Development.

A Newspaper Review:

The Pathetic Convention Center opened last night, demonstrating just how badly too many cooks can spoil the broth. The plush carpets and imported chandeliers are impressive separately. Together, however, they clash like items bought at a yard sale. The building is an awkward conglomeration of oddly shaped rooms that are too small to accommodate the conventions the city desperately needs to attract.

  • Style in writing, like a style of dress, communicates personal status, values, attitudes, and the desire to conform to or resist standards.
  • Style should be fashioned to make a favorable impression on readers.
  • Style reflect the writer's role. Objective documents such as a research paper or business report are weakened by the kinds personal references or expressions that add authority to reviews or personal essays.
  • Style -- especially word choice -- is critical in addressing sensitive issues. The way you express a response to a complaint letter could resolve a dispute or encourage a consumer to file a law suit.
  • Academic disciplines and professions often dictate the style of writing expected in their publications. In many instances personal pronouns (I or me) are considered inappropriate because they detract from a sense of objectivity. Examine the styles of writing used in your textbooks. Do you see differences in word choice based on the discipline?
  • Spelling and grammar checkers on computers cannot identify phrases using inappropriate styles. If you are unsure about the style of your writing, show a sample to your instructor.

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From The Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark Connelly.