College professors usually suggest to their students to cultivate a writing style of their own; and yet, they also suggest to “read this author and that writer” for style. Since style is the creative method that we use to explain ourselves, we can see many models of style in all genres of writing. A good, strong style, regardless of how distinctive, must possess certain primary qualities.
Developing Clearness of Expression
The primary standard of good writing is clearness of expression. The aim of every writer is to convey his thoughts (including concepts, opinions and emotions) to the reader. For this reason, be careful not to use ambiguous words. Use language that is clear, strong and distinct, or else you will fail in fully conveying your meaning. A careful familiarity with your subject matter is always essential.
The oneness of the sentence is vital to clearness of expression. Do not crowd into one sentence many thoughts (either connected, disconnected or half-formed); also avoid crowding more than several events taking place in different places and at different times in a short story.
Misplacing and abusing adverbs and clauses might cause you to express a message totally the opposite of what you intend to express. Misplacing and misusing pronouns can also negatively affect your writing since it will cause you to compose ambiguous sentences that will confuse your readers.
Using easy words and selecting such words to share your ideas will help you write in a style that everyone can understand; whereas using ornate and unclear lingo and outdated words (or newly-coined word) will produce ambiguity.
Developing Energy of Expression
The second standard of good style is strength, or a energy of expression, to capture the reader’s attention and to excite his curiosity. To express your idea with energy, choose words for their depth, not for their elegance. Use specific words and phrases, rather than generalities. When you use fewer words, the way in which you express yourself sounds more energetic.
Always strive to add meaning to your expression. Avoid: 1) repeating your thoughts; 2) inserting unnecessary adjectives; and 3) stating things in an oblique way—because these elements reduce the strength of telling a story.
To end a sentence with a trivial word is to make that sentence weak and ugly. You can hold the reader’s attention by using the most significant words first—as emphasis. You can accomplish this by placing the subordinate clauses before 1) the independent clause and the strongest clause of the sentence; 2) the most powerful sentence of the paragraph; and 3) the most effective paragraph last.
Developing Elegance of Style
To add elegance to style and to produce stronger and clearer thoughts, you can use several figures of speech to assert or assume the relation between ideas and concepts.
1) Use a simile to state a similarity between two unlike things;
2) Use a metaphor to compare two unlike things that already have something important in common.
3) Use a synecdoche to substitute a more inclusive term for a less inclusive one–or vice versa;
4) Use a metonymy to substitute the name of a thing or an accessory for that of the thing that you mean.
Developing Variety of Expression
Compared to consistency, using diversity will also add quality to your style. Develop your vocabulary and improve your knowledge of grammar, structure and English writing. Choosing synonyms carefully will avert you from using one word too regularly. To break the monotonous flow of your writing, try alternating long words with short words, and long sentences with short sentences.
By modifying the construction of a sentence, you can maintain its meaning as well obtain both variation and strength. Sometimes you can change a simple declarative sentence into a question or an exclamation with excellent impact. You can also achieve variety of expression by: 1) substituting an active verb for a passive verb—and vice versa; or 2) substituting a participle or infinitive.
Do not permanently fix clauses in one place; rather, change them around. You can convert clauses into phrases or words, or change complex sentences into simple sentences.
Apply some or all of these tips to your writing style and you will produce your own originality of expression.