Your goal, whether writing fiction or nonfiction, should be to paint word pictures vivid enough to engage the theater of your reader’s mind. Readers love to be educated and entertained, but they remember forever when they’re emotionally moved.
So deciding which you’ll employ of the four main writing styles is crucial to leaving a powerful impression on the page. Study these so you can settle on whichever best helps you find your unique writing voice.
The 4 Main Writing Styles
What it does: Explains or describes.
It answers what, why, and how with facts, not opinion.
You’ll find expository writing in:
- News articles
- Historical accounts
- Scientific and medical journals and articles
- Instruction manuals
- Self-help books
It may include quotes, links, tables, charts, and citations of sources.
Its function is to highlight key points and facts.
What it does: Offers a clear, concise description of a person, place, thing, or event, designed to engage readers’ senses and trigger the theaters of their minds.
The best descriptive writing avoids spoon feeding every detail to the reader, but rather offers just enough information to engage his senses. It can be found in every kind of writing.(Show, don’t tell)
What it does: Provokes action in the reader.
Its aim is to argue, using evidence that backs a certain perspective. It can be direct and bold and is found in:
- Opinion pieces and editorials
- Advertising copy
- Academic papers
- Cover letters
- Letters of recommendation
- Product reviews
What it does: Tells a story. It has a plot, setting, and characters—a beginning, middle, and end.
You’ll find narrative writing in:
- Stage and Screenplays
- Creative nonfiction
- Short stories
How to Decide Which Writing Style to Use
Your unique voice (what you say) and tone (how you say it) set you apart.
Ferociously self edit. Rewrite. Repeat. (All writing is rewriting.)
Rules to remember within each style:
- Answer what, why, or how
- Stick to facts
- Avoid revealing your bias
- Cite expert sources
- Show, don’t tell
- Engage the reader’s senses
- Don’t spoon feed description; suggest
- Use literary devices like metaphors and similes
- Know where your audience is coming from
- Acknowledge opposing views
- Rely on credible credible (documented) facts
- Appeal to the heart of the reader
- Determine your narrator (Point of View)
- Develop your plot and characters
- Create a strong story and character arc
- Give readers a satisfying conclusion
Still struggling? Take my Free Writing Assessment and get personalized advice on how to improve.