Monday, April 14, 2014

10 Ways to Develop Style

We are all looking for ways to improve our writing. Today, I thought I would help you develop your style. So, what is style? When in the discussion of writing, style is "the way in which an idea is expressed, not the idea itself."

1. Think About Style -  Think about how you want to express your idea. Use all of your senses.

2. Listen to What you Write - Think of your writing as music. The words you write make sounds, and when those sounds are in harmony, the writing will work. Read your writing aloud. Listen for the beat. Listen for gaps where the music doesn't work. "There are no good sounds or bad sounds, just as there are no good notes or bad notes in music. It is the way in which you combine them that can make the writing succeed or fail. It's the music that matters." states Gary Provost.

3. Mimic Spoken Language - Writing should be conversational. Your writing should convey to the reader a sense of conversation. Mimic spoken language in the variety of its music, in the simplicity of its words, in the directness of its expression. Writing provides time for contemplation. Use it well.

4. Vary Sentence Length - Vary the sentence length and you create music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm. A lilt, a harmony. Write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader's ear. Don't just write words. Write music.

5. Vary Sentence Construction - Subject. Predicate. Object. That's how we were taught early in life to construct sentences. However, identical sentence structure can become boring to readers. Of course, you should strive for clarity and not arrange your sentences in a way that strangles their logic. Keep the primary elements of the sentence dancing so that they will create their own music.

6. Write Complete Sentences - Complete sentences have a subject and a predicate. You should always try to write complete sentences. Good writing often contains incomplete sentences. The incomplete sentence is a useful tool. Using it wisely can invigorate the music of your words. Like a chime or the beat of a drum.

7. Show, Don't Tell - When you are showing people something, you are trusting them to make up their minds for themselves. Readers like to be trusted. Don't dictate to them. Let them see the person, situation, or thing you are describing, and they will not only like what you have written, they will like you for trusting them.

8. Keep Related Words Together - Adjectives should be placed near the nouns they describe so they don't appear to be describing some other noun. In the same vein, adverbs should be close to verbs they modify, and dependent clauses should be near the words on which they depend for meaning.

9. Use Parallel Construction - Just as the steady beat of a drum can often enrich a melody, the repetition of a sound can often improve the music of your writing. When you deliberately arrange words and sounds in similar fashion to show the reader the similarity of information contained in sentences it is called parallel construction.

10. Don't Force a Personal Style - Style is your writing. It is tangled in the content of your words and the nature of you. Do not create some kind of persona in your head and try to capture it on paper. Do not try to write like Erma Bombeck, Hunter S. Thompson, Ernest Hemingway or anybody else. Write well and without self-consciousness. Only then will your own style emerge.

If you follow these simple points, you'll be writing your own music and it will be delightful to the reader and to yourself.

Writing Reference - 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost