How can you develop a writing style that appeals to your audience?

As a blogger, you may have heard that you should develop your own writing style, and that your style needs to be appropriate to the audience you’re writing for. But what exactly is style, and how can you develop yours? Style is a squishier part of writing than the rules of spelling, grammar and punctuation. Rules are objective; if you don’t follow them, you’re wrong. But style is more subjective than the grammar rules. Style in writing usually means your voice, your tone. If you’re being yourself in your writing, especially in personal or opinion writing, your style should come naturally.

Style-quote

Your blog writing style is your voice and tone. It is more subjective than grammar rules.

When I was teaching college media writing, I had to separate a student’s writing style from their grammar, punctuation and spelling. A sentence might be technically correct, make sense and moved their story forward. But if was just worded differently than the way I would have worded it, then they were expressing their individual style, and I left it alone. My husband and I run into this when we proofread each other’s work. Since I come from a journalism background, my writing style is more straightforward and brief than his. He uses more metaphors and longer sentences than I do. If I have a comma in the wrong place or a word missing from a sentence, those need to be corrected. If he uses it’s the contraction when he means its the possessive, that’s an error (one he makes frequently and admits to). However, if I find myself just thinking of different wording than he uses, then we are talking about style. Style covers some areas that you need to watch out for that might bog down your writing or affect your clarity. These include wordiness, redundancy and clichés. They also include using active instead of passive voice and awkward or weak words. If you are using the best and strongest words you know and editing your writing for wording problems, then you are on your way to developing your own best style. I think some confusion over the term style comes from the fact that it is also applied to style systems. That is, Associated Press (AP) Style is what journalists use. American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA) Style is what college students and academic journals use. Chicago Style is used for theses and dissertations. These style systems tell you whether you should spell out numbers or use numerals, abbreviate state names or spell them out, and how to cite sources in text. They tell you about many other areas as well, but I don’t have room in a blog post to talk about them all. If you’ve ever used one of these style guides, you know what I mean. These style systems govern rules, but they don’t necessarily govern your personal style. Readers, how have you developed your own style? Or is this something you’re still working on? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

How can you develop a writing style that appeals to your audience? — 13 Comments

  1. I REALLY like your blog. I just started reading it and I find it fun to read as well as one of the most informative that I’ve found. (bookmarking now)
    Thanks!
    Ty

  2. I smiled as I was reading this. I can’t exactly say how I would classify my personal writing style. The fact that I’m writing at all is a bit of a surprise to me. Why? I’m dyslexic. That makes writing for me a much bigger challenge then it is for others. So I do the best I can by giving voice to what it is I try to convey in short stories about experiences from my past. In a way I guess that is it’s own unique personal style. :-)

  3. I agree that style is often confused with style systems for citation. Like you said, it is best to avoid confusion by thinking of style as a unique voice that must be authentic to be effective with readers.

  4. good explanation about difference between style and technical correctness. My style could be more active and use less words. I’m doing what they call a blog hop about writing stye. Its kind of like a chain letter for bloggers. You answer a short list of predetermined questions and then add bios to three other bloggers. I have one but need two more. Its not hard and doesn’t take long. My post goes up on monday. thanks and good luck with th post, max

  5. Neat post. I’ve been blogging for almost a year now, trying to find my own style (you never think its good enough) but for the past several months people have been telling me I’ve found it – and I intend to keep it.
    Welcome to BHB – I think you’ll very much enjoy this group.
    Lenie

    • Awesome! I’m adjusting my style to fit the blogging audience. It’s more personal than writing as a journalist or an academic. So far, I’m enjoying it!

  6. Your blog is so needed in mind-environments that widely lack consciousness of language in general, not to talk about writing and style. Remarkable those many bloggers who dare to formulate while not even disposing over minimal language tools. So we all should help to get your blog (and similar ones) out to the blogger communities.

    • Thanks, Gaby! I’m trying to let people know I’m here so they write in and ask questions. I’ll answer and help as best I can!

  7. My wife and i are constantly battling over our writing styles. Like your husband i am bad with commas and sometimes it seems that i will randomly stick one in a sentence for no reason.Hey that’s why she proof reads what i write. Great post

  8. A very stylish summary Jennifer and welcome to the BHB group. Your journalism background certainly comes through in the economy of expression, lack of duplication or redundancy and limitation of adjectives. My writing style varies with my mood and I pretty much accept that though I do sometimes agonize over the objective aspects. For instance my keyboard has a glitch where I can’t always use apostrophes for possessives which drives me nuts. Also a fair number of my readers are Brits and Canadians so either they or the Americans are going to think my spelling is wrong. I try to be fair and annoy each 50% of the time !

    • Thanks for your comment, Paul! And I’m sure the apostrophe errors are all your keyboard’s fault, and have nothing to do with user error! ;) (I hope that comes across as teasing!)