Posted by: nancycurteman | July 29, 2010

What is Literary Style?

Every author has a basic writing style. Style is not what an author writes, but the manner in which she writes it. It is an author’s unique way of communicating ideas. One might say that style is the verbal identity of a writer. An author defines her style in word choice and syntax (the order of words in a sentence).

What are some of the elements of style?

Style involves sentence length, be it simple noun/verb sentences or long sentences filled with modifiers.  It relates to an author’s liberal or conservative use of sensory details that involve some or all five senses. Use or nonuse of figurative language, metaphors and similes speaks to style.  Some authors focus on sound devices such as alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm.

While every author has a personal style of writing, that style is not static. The author refines it through reading a variety of writers and through his own writing experiences.

More writing tips:

What is Theme in Literature?
Developing Characters is No Mystery
Author’s Voice: How to find it?

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Responses

  1. Good one, Nancy!

  2. I agree with Rik, thanks Nancy.

  3. Succinct definition. Thanks.

  4. After reading your post I realize I do have a style. My style is okay but improvement is always a good thing. Thank you for your helpful post. I will be looking at my style as I continue writing.

  5. How would you distinguish literary style from “author’s voice”?

    It seems they must overlap or be synonymous.

    • I think you have a good point. There is some overlap in literary style and voice. However, style is related more to the mechanics of writing—punctuation and how the prose looks on the page in the sense of a flow, a rhythm, a cadence, vocabulary, lexicon, and slang. I equate voice more with feeling. When an author writes a sentence or phrase that feels perfect, that is the author’s voice. An author could write a phrase using perfect language mechanics and still not experience that wonderful “Ah Ha” feeling.

  6. May I suggest that the ‘author’s voice’ must combine in some way both theme and style.

    • That is a great observation. I agree completely. Theme and style are important elements of voice.

      • Yeah! What you want to say, and how you say it. Can’t think of anything else though, unless you break down the style into it’s various components, like plot, diction, character, etc. which I believe are all ‘elements’ of style.

  7. Good point. I would add the element of how the author feels about what she has written. This is voice It comes from the heart of the author, not from dictated writing standards. See comment above.

  8. Nancy,
    Thanks for your post.

  9. By George I think I’ve got it . . . Author’s Voice is the umbrella over the components of Literary Style and Theme.

    Thanks for the clarification, L & N!

  10. Yeah! I go with that nrhatch. But Nancy Curteman raised a good point about the emotional element of ‘knowing’ when you’ve ‘got it right’ as far as your concerned. But this may be the recognition that you have indeed succeeded in making your voice heard, or at least believe you have as far as you’re concerned. So maybe that would fall within the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’ and ‘how': maybe like “I am so glad I have grown as a writer/person” A metaphysical success story, perhaps. (Almost good as having a best seller in the market place, or winning a novel prize for literature…. pretty good ‘why’s there!

  11. If I’m close on the ‘why of winning the “Nobel’ Prize’, then the why doesn’t involve the actual writing or planning or philosophy of what goes into the writing. Maybe then it’s extra-curricular, so to speak…..unless you write just to write…..This is getting too complicated….

    • Just work up with idea: The voice is WHO I am. And yes, Nancy Cureteman, sometimes you get that emotional feeling that you ‘have discovered yourself’.
      So Who I am is what and how I say why I do, grin grin. Where and When will have to wait awhile……

  12. Error: Just woke up with this idea. Nrhatch- I’m ‘awake’ on this one. Will write blog maybe, when I feel I have found my ‘blogging’ voice. i.e. when I wake up. Then perhaps I will not ‘feel’ it is too ‘competitive’ for me. Thanks.

  13. Loreen, I don’t see blogging as a competitive activity. I blog because I like it. All the posts I make serve an interest I have, a need to learn, a desire to express my views. It pleases me when others indicate an interest in what I have to say, but it isn’t essential. My initial reason for blogging was to establish a platform to market my three novels, but as I continued blogging, this goal became secondary to the satisfaction I feel from researching and expressing my views.
    I really enjoy reading your thoughtful comments. I think you are a fine blogger. Try not to worry about competition. Just blog the way you want and about what you want. Most important, have fun.

  14. Thank you, very much for your encouragement. Both you and nrhatch. I had a feeling that the word ‘competition’ would draw some remarks. That’s why I put it in apostrophe. I did say that was the way I felt. It is a social activity. As I pointed out, I even keep my girl friends at a distance. I need my privacy and independence. I have had the good fortune in my life to not need employment for about forty years. So I studied. I’m a bit of a recluse.
    So I see blogging as necessarily, involving for me, the expected assumptions, and guidelines of the social, cultural factor. For this I used the word competition, because being personally involved, means or entails the need to live up to certain expectations, whether cultural or social. But if I just ‘drop by’ I don’t feel the pressure to conform in any way, shape or form. Like I said, it’s my personal take on expectations of others. It keeps me more ‘stress free’ to feel like I can come and go; whether or not my comments are accepted or not does not have such an impact on me, because I am in ‘a different head space’. I don’t feel I have to live up to any standard, real or imaginary. That’s what I mean by ‘competition’. When I’m alone or think I am I am ‘out of it’. I have quite a bit on my platter rewriting the book. I have just decided to make that my focus, hopefully to at least finish that. Thank you again for your concern.

  15. Thanks for the clarification. I have a better understanding now.

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  30. is the speaker’s tone of voice part of the literary style?

    • Good question. When you say speaker’s tone, do you mean the character in the novel? How the author depicts the way in which a character sounds when he speaks certainly is part of the author’s literary style and voice as well.

  31. when you are talking about literary style, are you talking about like what type of book of this, like mystery, science fiction. etc

  32. could you also give me some more example of literary styles

    • Peter, When I speak of literary style i’m talking about the way a author writes his book, not his genre. In other words, I’m referring to the author’s vocabulary, sentence structure, descriptive style etc. This style will appear in any genre.

      Here are some examples of different literary styles:
      Dickens uses long sentences.
      Michener uses abundant description.
      Evanovich uses lots of vernacular.
      Twain uses figurative language.

      I hope this helps clarify a bit.

  33. Thank you Nancy

    • You are welcome. Good luck in your writing.

  34. i would like to know , “what would be the Literary style of Ted Hughes?” i’m doing a reseach paper & i dont really know what to put in this part of my thesis :( Please help me

  35. it really helped me ! thanks Nancy <3

    • I hope you get an A on your paper. I’m sending positive thoughts.

  36. Hi Nancy,
    My writing style has definitely changed since I first began to write.
    Thanks for stopping by and liking one of my posts.
    Unfortunately, that was my old blog. I hope you drop by and visit my newer one at http://www.tracycampbell.net/blog.
    Have a lovely weekend
    Tracy :-)

    • I dropped by your new blog. It’s great.

      • Thanks, Nancy. I hope you’ll come back for a visit.
        Have a lovely week! :-)

  37. i agree with that alo but Nancy can you helpme answer these question, comment on the poet style in The negro speaks of rivers kindly help me please.

    • I’m not familiar with the poet you mention. Can you tell me more.

  38. how to study literary style?

    • Saeed, Your literary style will evolve through reading what you love to read and through writing as often as possible.

  39. Dear,
    what are the problems associated with the issue of style in literary writing?

    • The biggest problem for beginning writers is a reluctance to rely on their own developing literary style. They start off imitating another author’s style which is not unusual. However, they continue to imitate rather than taking that leap in the dark that leads to their own personal style.

  40. I am word genius a very special person. I have been writing since I was seven years old. Yes, I have different writing I notice.

    • Each author’s individual writing style is what makes her unique and interesting.


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