Sunday, February 8, 2009

Developing Your Writing Style, Part One

If I told you to develop your writing style, would you know what I meant?

If your answer is “No,” then this article is for you.

Here’s a quick definition of style: the way you put together a sentence or group of sentences.

The problem with figuring out style is there is no one sure way. It’s subjective. Depending on different forms of writing (essays, articles, stories, etc.) and different disciplines (science, art, humanities, etc.), style may differ.

To develop your writing style:

1. First, focus on YOUR STORY. What’s your story about? What themes are present in your story? Who are your characters? What is the tone of the work? Before you can even focus on the nuances of style, you have to understand your work as fully as possible. You are the creator of this work – no one else. Everything we are to know and believe of the work must be derived from you.

Once you have a firm sense of your work, focusing on the other tips can be an easier journey. Now, this doesn’t mean your story is PERFECT; it just means that you understand what you are trying to do with your creation.

2. Avoid WORDINESS. If you have a clear understanding of what your story is about, you can read your work to erase wordiness and leave your work with strong, concise prose. Wordiness includes clichés, qualifiers, and stock phrases. If you spot a cliché, ask yourself, “What am I really trying to say here?” By doing this, you’ll more than likely find a stronger way to write the line. Qualifiers are words like (very, often, hopefully, practically, basically, really, mostly) – they take a strong statement and muddy it with vagueness. By eliminating most of these, your writing will only improve. Stock phrases are groups of words that replace one or two words. Here are a few examples (the shortened version of each is in parentheses): Due to the fact that (because), Despite the fact that (although), In the event that (if), Concerning the matter of (about), It is important that (must). By continuously asking your, “What am I really trying to say here,” you can help eliminate many of these wordiness issues.

More tips to developing your writing style coming soon!


Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at The World According to ChickLitGurrl.

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  1. Couldn't agree more with your advice. Coming from business world, where wordiness and obfuscation (always wanted to used that four-syllable word). the standard tends to be that "tight" is not right.

    And that intro is a good example.

    But I'm trying to improve.
    Writing flash fiction helps. Tends to keep words to one or two syllables. And sentences need to be sharp and short.


    Pat Harrington

  2. I look forward to reading the rest of the series. Style is such an important factor in being a distinctive voice, and too often ignored as a topic. Thanks for taking the time.

    Wyatt at Pan Historia

  3. Good article. You brought some objectivity to a very subjective subject.

  4. I have struggled to develop my writing style and the book about writing a fiction story in five minutes also helped. :)

  5. I definitely agree with your points. I wish all of the authors whose works I edit would read your advice and apply it to their novels.

  6. You are absolutely correct! Syle is indeed important in writing. I write research paper jobs as part of my freelance work. Before even starting, I have decided to write in my own style. I do not want to adapt or copy the style of other writers because my style will be my "signature", will be my being as a writer.

  7. Thanks for the responses, :-)

    In the classes I teach, whether it's freshman composition or writing for the media, I preach (ad nauseam, lol) on style and voice. I want them to see that everything they write connects back with them, the writer. It's amazing to read the research papers of students who fully grasp what style and voice can do for a project they deemed stodgy solely because it's an academic work.


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