Styles of Writing
While some tips for improving your writing work well in all cases, it’s important to remember that there are different styles of writing, and what conventions you use and how you shape your writing will differ, depending on what you’re doing. By making sure your style of writing matches the audience you want it to reach, you can help improve your style dramatically.
The style of writing most people are familiar with is usually called everyday writing–this is what you do when you send people texts or e-mails, post comments to your Facebook, or, yes, even blog online. A question I’m asked regularly as a teacher is “why should I care about punctuation or spelling? Who cares if I use complete sentences? People understand what I mean!” and things like that. You know what? In your casual writing, knock yourself out–writing is, after all, first and foremost about communication. No one’s grading your online messages, and they’re meant to be read quickly and then discarded.
Academic writing, though, requires more–well, more everything. More time put in to composing it, more thought into precisely what you say, and more knowledge behind what you say. It requires more revision, more care–and more attention paid to what your readers will be expecting. Your academic style of writing can cover a wide range of genres, including your various reports, essays, and research papers. Remember, your primary focus with these styles of writing is to portray a sense of knowledge and authority–and, when you use text shorthand and skip out on grammar rules, people will judge you. Not everyone, but most people in academia–and they’re the one handing out your grades.
There are more styles of writing than just academic and casual, though–there’s creative writing, which can include poetry, novels, and short stories. These are going to look much different from either your texts to your friends or your reports to your teachers. Here, you’re focusing not so much on backing up your arguments with evidence, but on plot, setting, and believable characters. You might throw some grammar rules out the window to create a voice and unique style of writing–you might have characters speak in different ways. Especially in poetry, you might ignore punctuation all together. There’s a lot more freedom to let your style shine through in creative writing.
Yet one more style of writing is business writing: memos and proposals. You probably won’t have many of these in high school, and it’s a shame–they usually end up being the most important documents you’ll write out in The Real World. Again, grammar and rules of style are important–if you send a message to your boss in text speak, they’ll laugh you out of the building!–but more important is your ability to be clear and to the point; there’s no time for long, wordy introductions or setting up metaphors or analogies, and clear, simple communication is valued above all else.
Keeping in mind who you’re writing to and who you’re writing for will go a long way in telling you what style of writing to use in any given situation. Your audience is crucial to keep in mind–always start every assignment by asking not what you will write, but why you are writing it.