A Question About Style

A couple weeks ago, one of my students asked what I meant by style. That gave me a good reminder that sometimes we just need to get back to basics before we attempt something advanced. (The class subject was about getting published in periodicals, and I asked students to analyze the style of the magazine they were approaching BEFORE they sent the query letter.)

So, what does style mean? Style pertains to how ideas are expressed. In case of periodicals, styles differ greatly across the spectrum. All you have to do is analyze Woman’s World Weekly, then Better Homes and  Garden, then Cosmopolitan. All are women’s magazines, but each has its own style.

Readers are attracted to a book because of the promised content (promised either by title or subtitle at a minimum). Too often, however, readers stop reading because of they don’t like the writer’s style.

What are some red flags that your style risks reader turn-off?

  • Passive voice– Too many passive verbs–was, is, are, were, have, had, had, etc., which are all forms of “to be.”
  • Sentences are pretty much the same length–If they’re all short, reader feels the staccato rhythm of a machine gun. If they all long or complex, reader has to work to hard to get your meaning. Mix it up!
  • Starting every sentence the same way–Take a look at your writing and see how many sentences start with “the.”
  • Overuse of cliche or trite phrases–Good writers express themselves in new ways to engage the reader.
  • Overuse of favorite words–I edited a book last week and the favorite word was a–hole. Since this was a professional book written by an author showing expertise, I made a comment that not only was the word offensive, it implied a lack of vocabulary. Looking back, I could have been less direct, but at least the author understood and accepted my point.

Every author has his or her own style. I hope you’ll review your writing and tweak your style to keep your reader reading.

Happy writing!

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1 Response to “A Question About Style”


  1. 1 Miracet Free Trial September 24, 2013 at 8:53 pm

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