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Writing Styles and Forms
overview | |||||||
There are generally three main styles of writing: expository, persuasive and imaginative. Within each style of writing there is a wide range of forms. This page explains the three different styles and different forms of writing (each with explanatory links).
Writing Style / Type
|three types of writing
||possible intended purposes
||depends on purpose
||possible forms which can apply to any type of writing
||typical language features for purpose, audience and form
|| to explain all sides of an argument or issue
to inform by examining both sides of an issue
to provide a balanced discussion of different views
to present the pros and cons so readers can make up their own minds
| varies according to purpose and form can be for:
special interest groups (limited appeal)
mainstream audience (wide appeal)
all newspaper readers
all readers of a specific magazine
| research and/or investigative papers for feature articles for journals, newspapers or magazines
analytical essays for a specific journal
reflective essays for a specific journal
scripts: film, play, radio
| the language must be appropriate for the intended audience (study how language is used (e.g. news reports, analytical essays, short stories, etc.). Specialised language such as that used in a scientific report may not be appropriate for young children or for most adults
the language and style adopted depends on the purpose and form (study how language is used in different types of texts (news reports, analytical essays, short stories, etc.) to meaningfully communicate ideas and engage with the intended audience
the stylistic features of the form must be adopted (look at and study the typical features of different forms by finding, for example, a feature article from a newspaper, an analytical essay from a journal, an interview from a magazine, a short story, a play script, etc.) All written texts have recognisable forms.
|| to persuade the reader to agree
to argue and convince that author's viewpoint is correct
to influence others to agree with viewpoint
| newspaper editorials
letters to the editor
narratives such as short stories, fables
scripts: film, play, radio
|| to entertain
to make reader think about ideas or issues in new and different ways
to move readers emotionally
to stimulate thoughts and feelings
| short stories
scripts: radio, film and play
exchange of letters
- Imaginative in nature
The intention is to present ideas, issues and arguments in an imaginative and credible way through description, characters, settings, figurative language, five senses, etc.
While a work of imaginative fiction, it should be credible and plausible
Conveys information through description and figurative language
Engage audience when there is an element of credibility involved: the reader needs to believe, in some way, in the 'world'that has been created.
Show don't tell narrate and describe events, characters, situations (e.g. Sam felt tired is telling; whereas Sam studied the clock through half-closed eyes shows that Sam feels tired).
The most common forms of imaginative texts include:
short stories, short stories, radio, film and play scripts, exchange of letters, diary and journal entries, poetry, monologues and dialogue, fables
Sets out to argue and prove a case
Aims to convince targeted audience of the validity of a viewpoint on an issue by presenting logical argument
Presents ideas that follow in logical progression
Anticipates and answers possible objections or opposing arguments
Presents well researched evidence to support the case
Provides facts from reputable authorities and research to prove, or disapprove, a position
Written with precision and authority
The most common forms of persuasive texts include:
essays, editorials, letters to the editor, opinion articles, feature articles, interviews, speeches, submissions
The intention is to explain, describe or interpret a situation, issue or event.
It explains, it does not present an argument
Considers all aspects of an issue without taking a side or setting out to prove a case
For example if you wrote an expository account of an issue and then tried to demonstrate the benefits over the disadvantages, you would be adding argument; an expository text would explore both without showing preference
Feature articles and detailed reports are usually expository in nature
The most common forms of expository texts include:
analytical essays, reflective essays, news reports, research texts, interviews, biographies and autobiographies, personal letters, speeches, submissions
Focus, Purpose, Audience, Form and Language
It is important that you pay careful attention to:
What is it you want to say? Be clear on what you want to say and that you are responding relevantly to the set prompt or topic. This is where you need to have developed your understanding of the Context and the texts. Have a clear focus; this gives your writing its coherence and unity. Unfocused writing meanders and lacks impact or punch. The fundamental question to ask yourself is: What is my central theme or focus?
Are you writing with the intention of exploring the topic in an expository, persuasive or imaginative style? Be clear about why you are creating texts in each of these styles.
Purpose is so influential that we tend to categorise writing accordingly. It is important to note that although we identify main styles of writing as if they can be 'pure', mostly we combine several elements in a text. We may wish to inform, explain and persuade; or to draw on personal experience to create an imaginative narrative text; or to create an imaginary exchange of dialogue to argue a particular point of view and so on.
Whatever you write, clarify your main reasons for writing. While you will often have more than one purpose in writing, you will also find that there is an over-riding or primary purpose behind the letter, story, essay, piece of dialogue or poem that you are writing. The primary reasons for writing can be identified in the following:
to inform; to instruct; to explain how to do something; to analyse;
to persuade; to question or challenge a viewpoint, idea or commonly held belief;
to recount a personal experience; to share your feelings on a personal experience common to many; to relate an unusual private experience; to gain sympathy and understanding for your plight;
to entertain; to amuse; to delight with imagination and artistic grace; to present serious ideas in imaginative form.
Have you chosen a form appropriate to your purpose? Have you adopted the appropriate conventions and stylistic features of the form?
Compared to speaking, written communication cannot rely on face-to face contact between a speaker and a listener. For this reason, writers adopt a stricter and more formal method for getting their message across. Over time, a number of standard practices and formats have developed to enable this. You will be referring to each of these standard practices and formats as a form of writing and it is important for you to recognise and use the best form of writing for the job at hand. That is, use a particular form of writing to suit a specific task.
You are strongly encouraged to avoid producing written texts for all your pieces that resemble (and/or read like) "essays". You should carefully consider the many and different forms you could adopt to produce your texts. The emphasis is on a variety of forms.
Consider the range of forms for the creation of your texts:
You could consider a combination of forms (known as a hybrid text). For example, for a short story, the overall meaning of your story could be achieved by the combined effect of different texts within it, such as letters or emails, newspaper reports, talk-back radio program, transcript of an interview, etc.
You could also consider creating a character or situation (or both) told from the point of view of different characters.
No form of writing is prescriptive to any style. Persuasive and expository texts can be presented in an imaginary style such as a dialogue between two or more people / characters, short stories, fables, etc.
Consider adopting a persona. For any issue, there are a number of parties involved and all will have a perspective on the debate. Your role could influence, even determine, the position you take.
Have you addressed a specific audience? Ensure you consider how best to address your audience.
Always ask yourself: For whom am I writing? Know your reader. This attunes you to the need to adapt writing to your audience, which enlivens your writing. Therefore, the most effective writing takes into account the nature of the audience that the writer is addressing. When you are deciding on the audience (before you begin writing) you should try to think of specific characteristics. Consider their age, sex, economic background, cultural or ethnic background, level of education, and their political, social and moral beliefs. You could also consider their literary tastes, their previous personal experiences and issues which will be of interest to them.
Have you chosen language suited to your purpose and audience? Any effective written text has its language well matched to its form, audience and purpose.
Language is how your ideas are communicated. It includes such conventions as style, 'voice' and 'stance', tone, vocabulary, specialised or technical vocabulary, variation of sentences, punctuation, tenses, imagery, metaphor, symbols, dialogue, persuasive strategies, and so on.
In general, style and tone should be consistent throughout, although a shift in tone can be effective in generating a sense of closure in a persuasive text or in a story or play scene. An editorial needs a formal style and mostly serious tone; you have much more freedom in your language use in an imaginative text, but consistency is still the key. Imagery is a key element of language use in short stories and poetry.
Your specified audience will in most cases be a broad cross-section of society. This means your language needs to be accessible and interesting for a range of readers. Avoid specialised or technical language (unless you are writing for a very selective audience); and avoid slang or offensive language. Think about the context you are writing for: would your text be rejected by the publication's editors on the grounds that it is has inappropriate language?
Some colloquial language might be appropriate in dialogue for certain created characters, but keep this to a minimum it will limit the complexity of your ideas and overall discussion.
Your purpose is why you are writing: what impact do you want your piece to have on the reader? To make them see that an issue is not just black-and-white but has many shades of grey? To make them laugh? To make them agree with you? Be clear about this purpose in your own mind since it will give your writing greater coherence and effectiveness.
East West: a reading and creative writing unit developed by Ross Barham, Amanda Carroll, Blair Mahoney, and G. Marotous.
Web site designed, constructed and maintained by G. Marotous, 2010. Contact.
© 2010. Melbourne High School English Faculty.