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.
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.