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What Is Your Writing Style?

Are you a "Poetic Craftsman", or a "Flibberty Gibbet"?

Are you a "Poetic Craftsman", or a "Flibberty Gibbet"?

"A man's style in any art should be like his dress—it should attract as little attention as possible." - Samuel Butler

So you are a writer. You know you are a writer, because you are driven to put your thoughts into words to share with others, you love to organize words, and you are either thinking about writing, or you are already writing articles and publishing them. You might be writing articles, poetry, product reviews, commentaries, blogs, or even publishing your own books. You already know about grammar, spelling, punctuation, and all the other things you need to know to write something presentable.

But what style of a writer are you? Though you are already writing, you may not know what your writing style is. How can you determine this?

There are many different trains of academic thought on writing styles, since there is no one standard accepted authority on style for the English language. But deciding the writing style that's right for you can be found by determining who your audience will be, your own personal style of communicating, and where your writing will be published.

In considering what style of writing you should be using, you should also think about what you want to achieve with your writing. Do you want to share your experiences, entertain by telling a story, teach someone a new skill or impart knowledge, or persuade others to change their thinking or perform a specific action?

The three fundamental writing styles are:

Narrative: Writing that tells about a personal or fictional experience, or tells a story based on a real or imaginary event.

Expository: Writing that is designed to convey information or explain something difficult to understand.

Persuasive: Writing that has as its purpose an attempt to convince the reader to accept a particular point of view or to take some specific action.

Writing styles can be narrowed down even further, by determining several factors, which include:

1. AUDIENCE - Actual or intended. Who will be reading what you write? Will it be a general audience, or will your readers be technical, academic, scientific, legal, or medical peers? Writing for a selected audience type will require using a preferred style type for that specific audience. Style guides for the general public would include those of "Fowler's Modern English Usage", with guidelines for language usage, punctuation, and grammar, or "The Chicago Manual of Style", a guide for style preferred by publishers of books and journals.

2. VEHICLE - The medium through which you publish your writing determines which writing style you should use, according to accepted or preferred style guides for a specific publication or organization, or for a particular audience or academic discipline. Some of these specific publication styles could be medicine, journalism, law, government, business, or industry. Publishers' style guides may have unique rules for language use, and may differ in rules regarding document formatting, citations and bibliography styles, graphical design, punctuation, etc. In the United States, most non-journalistic writing follows the "Chicago Manual of Style", while most newspapers base their style on the "Associated Press Stylebook". A classic style guide for the general public is "The Elements of Style", by Strunk and White.

3. PERSONAL STYLE - What is your personal style?

Determining your personal writing style will make it much easier to zero in on your own personal strengths, take better advantage of your talent, and increase the impact of your writing. Knowing and perfecting your own personal writing style can help you attain greater success as a writer.

If you try to "follow the crowd", or "write for the money", you may be fighting your own natural style, and consequently, setting yourself up for failure. If you are attempting to write the way others do, to duplicate their success, you may find that you are unable to emulate it, simply because you have a different style of writing than they do.

For example, if you are an "Emotional Expressive" writer, you will find it almost impossible to be a "Commentator". A person who writes on impulse with a burst of emotion, almost always writes about how they feel, and thus, their writing will be slanted to describe how they personally view a topic. On the other hand, a "Commentator" will write about the same topic, but in an unbiased manner, showing the facts, and then comparing alternate views, without committing to a personal opinion or viewpoint.

A person who loves to create artistically crafted poetry or prose will find it impossible to write for the search engines, using long-tail phrases, and keyword optimized content designed to pull in traffic and make money, because it would ruin their carefully created "word design".

How many "personal styles" of writing are there? That's a really good question. There may be as many writing styles as there are writers! All of us approach our writing differently.

But there are several basic "personal styles" that cover most of us. (Or at least, these are the ones I came up with...)

Here they are:

Personal Writing Styles -

"Poetic Craftsman" - This is the writer who likes to convey thoughts, dreams, feelings, observations, or emotions, in a carefully crafted and structured form of writing such as prose or poetry. This person will probably spend painstaking hours or even days revising, re-ordering, and rewriting their work, until it is perfect. To this writer, writing is a highly-skilled art. They love to arrange and rearrange words, and play with metaphors, rhythm, and sentence and word structure.

"Unbiased Commentator" - This kind of writing could include journalism, news reporting, reviews, legal, scientific, or technical writing. This kind of writing requires smaller words and shorter sentences, is intended to be easily understood by a general audience, and should be fact-based, and free of personal opinions, slang, bias, or emotionality. This writer does their homework, gathering information with organized and pertinent research, cites resources, and writes concisely and efficiently.

"Emotional Expressive" - This personality tends to write as a "knee-jerk" response to an event or topic that causes an emotional reaction. They use their writing as a vehicle to release excess emotion, tension, fear, grief, or anger, and find it difficult to remain objective about their subject matter. Their writing is generally manifested as a personal opinion, and they tend to use the word "I" often. This kind of writing is good for editorials, or for writing reviews or opinions for peers. At times this writer may provoke controversial or antagonistic responses in readers who do not agree with the opinions expressed. (In fact, sometimes this is the intention!) This writer may also be looking for affirmation or commiseration from readers.

"The Activist" - This writer wants to persuade you, and invoke a reaction and an action with their writing. (Persuasive writing) Usually they present a problem, cause you to react, and end up by telling you what you can do about it. For example, a) Puppy mills are horrible places and should be shut down b) They then show you cases and pictures of mistreated dogs that will horrify you and make you angry or disgusted, and then c) Tell you where to go to sign a petition to stop this travesty.

"The Storyteller" - This personal style is writing that is designed to entertain the reader. (Narrative writing) It can be fictional or non-fictional. It can be historical, humoristic, biographical, fantasy, personal, third person, or metaphorical. But it is always a story that will be complete with descriptions of people and personalities, places, events, etc. This writer wants to share experiences, emotions, feelings, and make you feel like you are there as an observer.

"SEO Marketer" - This writer is in it for the money, plain and simple. He or she will do the keyword research to find what's getting the most traffic, then use those keywords in their title and content, submit their articles to directories, and backlink their articles to get the highest amount of traffic possible, in order to earn money from their Google Adsense and/or affiliate links.

"Teacher" - This is non-fiction, how-to writing. (Expository writing) This writer is knowledgeable about a certain subject, or knows a skill that he/she wants to describe or teach about. Most academic, technical, legal, or medical essays fall into this category. These writers enjoy writing about what they are experts at, and love to research new or informative things that they can teach their readers about.

"Flibberty-Gibbet" - This person never knows what they are going to write about. They have no idea what their writing style is, and they are not aware they should have one. They don't research, don't do SEO optimization, and have no particular audience in mind. They may write haphazardly, straying off-topic, and use several different writing styles all in the same piece of work. They tend to write "off-the-cuff", with no particular objective in mind, and are unorganized. Their articles may include several different subject matters that are unrelated, and if you start reading something they have written, you never know where you will end up. This is the kind of writer you don't want to be!

In summary, to use personal writing style to empower your writing:

Take a moment to decide what you want to achieve with your writing,
Know who your audience will be,
Remember your personal writing style, and
Consider where you will be publishing your writing.


Which one are YOU?

Some Common Style Guides for Writing:

For General Writing:

The Chicago Manual of Style - By University of Chicago staff, required by some academic publishers for books and journal publications. Check out The Chicago Manual of Style Online at:

The Elements of Style - By William Strunk Jr, and E.B. White (Strunk & White)

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Fowler's Modern English Usage, 3rd Edition - Outlines guidelines for language usage, phrases, punctuation, and grammar.

For Legal Documents:

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. Jointly, by the Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, and Penn Law Review.

ALWD Citation Manual, by the Association of Legal Writing Directors

For Academic Papers:

A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Seventh Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, by Kate L. Turabian. Often referred to as "Turabian."

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. By Joseph Gibaldi (Often referred to as "MLA.")

For Journalism:

The Associated Press Stylebook. By the Associated Press (AP).

The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. By Allan M. Siegal and William G. Connolly.

For Electronic Publishing:

The Columbia Guide to Online Style, by Janice Walker and Todd Taylor.

Academic Style Guides:

A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (frequently called "Turabian style") By Kate L. Turabian, graduate school dissertation secretary at the University of Chicago from 1930 to 1958. Her stylistic rules closely follow those in the Chicago Manual of Style, although there are some differences.

American Medical Association Manual of Style - For medical papers published in journals of the American Medical Association.

IEEE Style - Used in many technical research papers, especially those relating to computer science.

"Style Manuals and Writing Guides" - This excellent resource offers a list of dozens of Style Manuals and links to access them online. From the California State University, Los Angeles Library.

Wikipedia's Guide to Writing Better Articles

What is a Style Guide and Why Would I Need One? - By the University of Memphis LIbraries.


Marilyn L Davis from Georgia on July 24, 2013:

Thanks for definitions; I personally love them, even knowing that they are fluid and interpreted by the individual’s own perspective.

My niche is addiction and recovery, and as such, information needs to be succient, timely and factual or written by an Unbiased Commentator. Given that the people touched by addiction contend with stigmas, inherient ambivalence, and many negative behaviors and emotions, articles often need to be presented in a Teacher-Storyteller-Activist-Emotionally Expressive voice to reach a broad audience. Throwing in a little Poetic Craftsmanship frames a lot of the lessons of addiction and recovery in a way that touches the hearts of those of us in recovery.

Long explanaition to let you know I use most of the styles to write, but perhaps fail to use the one designed to be read – SEO Marketer.

I make an effort to be concise and stay on point even with personal or other ancedotal or subjective references within the article, so, Flibberty Gibbet is not appealing to me.

Thanks for all the new labels for style and voice. Marilyn

Rafini from Somewhere I can't get away from on March 17, 2010:

Ok, now I'm quite confused! lol

I am definitely a Flibberty Gibbet style writer, as in I write "off the cuff", never plan what I will write, or make an outline. Yet I see myself in the other styles you have mentioned except Activist & SEO. I am just now beginning to work on Storyteller - and I can see it isn't the same as the others! But, I'm learning because it's what I want to do. Your hub has shown me, Yes, I am meant to be a writer. :)

Cathy Nerujen from Edge of Reality and Known Space on March 05, 2010:

Hy MagicStarER: I think I fit into the first 4 categories somehow, poet and commentator and emotional expressive all fit me as a person. These are interesting descriptions. I love poetry. I just wrote a (hub) poem and I think Love will be a big thing in my writing, though I only have 2 hubs. I am a beginner in the universal order of things, I see poetry and creativity as a way of expressing how I feel about a very special person in my life. And other things too. I am not sure how I will develop, but that's part of the mystery and joy and pain of writing. (I take so long!)

MagicStarER (author) from Western Kentucky on February 26, 2010:

Why thank you, earnestshub! I'm glad it helped you - it helped me, too! :) Thanks for coming and reading!

earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on February 26, 2010:

A very well crafted hub, thank you. You have taught me quite a bit here, and I enjoyed your clear definitions which helped me to examine my own style of writing.

Cathy Nerujen from Edge of Reality and Known Space on February 22, 2010:

As I am only in possession of one hub so far, I don't know what one I fit into, but hope to find out soon. I just feel my way through it.

gwennies pen on February 20, 2010:

In reading the descriptions of writing styles, it seems I am prone more to be a Narrative, Storyteller? I have bookmarked this hub as it is very enlightening and informative. Thanks for the helps me understand the differences in the many styles of writing. :)

HubCrafter from Arizona on February 19, 2010:

Hi MagicStarER:

Just a little more about styles.

Writing has a great deal in common with music.

It has rhythm, pattern and meter.

Select any passage from literature (prose, poetry, letters, persuasive speech, fiction, narrative, journalistic, scientific, technical...any form of writing you like).

Count the syllables per word as you read. A general pattern will emerge. Now note where the conjunctions are in each sentence. Compare the syllable groups on either side of the conjunction.

Go back and note where consonants repeat.

Look for lists of three items..count the syllables again.

Listen for words that sound the same. Look for a phrase that repeats.

Notice the metaphors...does the metaphor's theme continue beyond it's introduction?

Are the sentences all the same length? Are they long, developing a melody? Are they short like a note?

Music and literature have a great deal in common.


MagicStarER (author) from Western Kentucky on February 19, 2010:

To Quicksand: Thanks for coming! Yes, I think that's what we all do until we learn more about styles and how to write professionally. We actually are perfecting our own "style", without realizing what we are doing. Learning about different writing styles and techniques helps us to perfect our writing even further... :)

quicksand on February 19, 2010:

As for me, I do not have a style at all as I was never taught to write. I describe an event in whatever sequence that I find fit and then I tweak it up in order to make it intelligible.

Only when I try to explain something scientific do I need to maintain a sequence that has to be logical.

Thanks for this article. :)

MagicStarER (author) from Western Kentucky on February 18, 2010:

To Internetwriter62: I'm glad you found this informative. I did, too! :) I am learning right along with you! The research I did for this article opened the doors to some new understanding and ways of looking at writing. Thanks for reading!

To Wealthmadehealthy: Glad you liked it. :) Yes, you are right - we could use different styles at different times. Imagine if you knew ALL the different specific styles. And if you wrote a legal paper one day, using the "Bluebook", then an article for a newspaper the next time, using the "New York Times Style", and had an editing job where you used "Fowler's" or "Chicago Manual of Style". Now THAT would be a hell of a writer, wouldn't it, to know how to do all that? Think of how versatile you would be, and how much more marketable you could make yourself!

What I wanted to do here is just introduce the concept of "Writing Styles". It is really helping me get a better handle on my writing, and what I want to accomplish with it.

I thought that since it is helping me so much, it would probably help other writers, too.

I'm glad you guys have all liked this, because it is a validation for me, in that I used what I learned about "styles", to venture away from my usual personal style and write this article.

I am also surprised that anyone likes it at all - because I was broke out in hives from head to toe, and had a terrible stomach ache last night when I wrote it, and could hardly think straight enough to write at all. Who knew?

MagicStarER (author) from Western Kentucky on February 18, 2010:

To Lorlie: :) LOL! Thanks for the bookmarkin', hon! And you are a quick study. Yep, it's "Expository". And must be a personal style of "Teacher"? I am actually leaving the boundaries of my "usual" style, which is "Emotional Expressive". I am a "knee-jerk" writer, who mostly writes when something makes me angry, sad, happy, or disgusted. I use my writing as an outlet. I sometimes create controversy or make people mad at me!

I recognize that I need to be more professional about my writing, if I am going to succeed. So, it's "nose to the grindstone" for me, to learn about "styles"! :)

You need to know how to write in the proper "style" if you want to be an editor, proofreader, write technical or "trade" work, or write and publish a book.

It's all very nice to "bang out something" on your keyboard and throw it up there, but I think if we are serious about our writing, then we need to learn to write professionally.

MagicStarER (author) from Western Kentucky on February 18, 2010:

To Norman - Thanks for commenting! (And thanks for that Facebook promo!) :)

I think you are right that you could be more than one personal writing style type. I think that you could conceivably even include 2 or more styles in one piece of work. I base this on the fact that we have "Epic" or "Epistle" poems, which are "Narratives", but yet, are poetry! Other such combinations might be possible, too!

Like Alekhouse, I think we can change our hats according to the task. Even though my natural style is "emotional expressive" or "teacher", I can whip out some rather impressive stanzas myself.

As many styles as there are writers! There are so many different ways you could "categorize" writers and their writing. I saw a quiz yesterday where it would tell you if you were a "dark", "romantic", or "classical" writing style, among others.

I always thought that what I learned in English Lit and Basic Writing classes was plenty enough to make it as a writer. But now I discover that there is much more to it, and that I have loads to learn. I mean, seriously, who could ever really completely learn all the "Style Guides"?

So, this is just a beginner class in "Writing Styles". I learned a lot from the research, so I thought maybe others could benefit by it. :)

MagicStarER (author) from Western Kentucky on February 18, 2010:

To Hubcrafter: Thanks bunches for reading and commenting. Rhetoric? Hmmmm... I will have to check into that.

As to the "personal writing styles", you have busted me. They are my own invention.

I needed to educate myself about writing styles. So I set myself to learning, then wrote a basic overview about the existence of "style guides" used in professional writing.

After that, I invented the "personal styles" as a way to make sense of what I had learned. Glad you liked it. :)

MagicStarER (author) from Western Kentucky on February 18, 2010:

To alekhouse: You are a wonderfully talented writer. You said: "emotional expressive with a bit of the satiric and ironic thrown in." Hmmm... How you do dat? I think my natural style is emotional expressive, but I am too involved with making sure I don't use too many adjectives to even think about satire or irony. Of course, what I write is usually more "Teacher" and not fiction. I think fiction is the very hardest of all. My hat is off to your awesome talent! :)

Wealthmadehealthy from Somewhere in the Lone Star State on February 18, 2010:

This is an excellent hub, and I think we all have several writing styles in our beings, as one day you would feel poetic and the next day journalistic, and maybe the day after that feel like writing a story....This is a great hub should be advertised as it contains a wealth of information and food for thought!

Thanks so much for writing it!!! And for all the links too!! Have a Blessed Day!!

Internetwriter62 from Marco Island, Florida on February 18, 2010:

I found the hub really informative. I never realized how style can define others and myself, as a writer, to one degree or another. Your article was very well researched, and I really like hubs like this one, because I learn from them, and they are truly worth reading. Thank you for a fantastic and informative hub.

Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on February 18, 2010:

This is an amazing, and I believe expository, piece of work, MagicsStarER. I rarely bookmark a Hub before reading it in it's entirety, but this one proved exemplary from the beginning.

Thank you-and I will be referring to it often.


Norman W Wilson PhD on February 18, 2010:

This one of the best and most informative articles I've had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. Well written. I would suggest, however, that one may be more than one type of writer or a combination of more than one.

HubCrafter from Arizona on February 18, 2010:

Hi MagicStarER:

Interesting hub, for sure.

I hadn't heard of these style categories before. Where did you come across them?

After two years of Rhetoric in college, the students in the Writing Concentration could deconstruct any literary form as quickly as a trained PFC breaks down his rifle. This training in rhetoric was based upon the original Greek models. Whatever I write today is informed by these incredible insights now two thousand years old. Whatever I read today I find it impossible NOT to see the bones of the thing, even as I read. Learning rhetoric changed HOW my mind processed ideas. It organized my thoughts. It clarified and distilled a jumble of images into a coherent hierarchy of major ideas with supporting outline.

Thank you for an enjoyable read.


Nancy Hinchliff from Essex Junction, Vermont on February 18, 2010:

I honestly think it is possible to write well in more than one style, although a particular one may be the most natural and comfortable.

I have been writing articles and commentary for years, but have just recently switched to fiction. I would say that may basic fictional style is emotional expressive with a bit of the satiric and ironic thrown in. However; I can craft a pretty mean poem, having been an English teacher who is well read and familiar with the use of metaphor and imagery.

Good hub, BTW. Very well done.

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