Refining Language to Be Crisp, Clear, and Direct

Style Is About Choice

English has specific grammatical rules.  However, these rules are very broad and sophisticated — within them, you can craft tremendous gradations of meaning.  Think of it as writing with a rainbow — whatever topic you shine your light upon, you can choose the shades of color used to illuminate.

Functions of Style

Style represents the choices we make in how we use grammar to shape meaning.  It provides rhythm and emphasis.  Some functions of style include:

The Four Major Writing Styles

There are four major purposes of writing, each one of these purposes carries specific expectations for the choice and arrangement of words.  Many genres of writing will favor specific styles over others, but these styles are often blended to provide a combination of information and rhetorical impact.

Video: The Purposes of Writing Style

tunes2teach addresses the fact that different writing styles depend upon the purpose of your writing.

Key Concepts

Diction: The Choice of Words

The first and perhaps most important aspect of style is diction, the choice of words we use.  The English language includes over 40,000 words — for each statement you might give, there will be dozens of potential combinations of synonyms.  The following are key considerations:

Conversational, Persuasive, and Analytical Language

Implied Educational Level

As illustrates, specific details are stronger than vague words.

Adding Emphasis: Sentence Structure and Pacing

Thoughtful Academic Writing Uses Longer Sentences

Academic writing often uses complicated sentences.  For many readers, these longer sentences feel ponderous and drawn out — i.e. they're boring.

However, there's a reason for this.  Longer sentences offer more room for detailed information and analysis.  They also sound more educated because it takes greater thought and attention to craft a long sentence that remains grammatically correct.

Rhetorically, longer sentences indicate the ethos of thoughtful analysis.  By using longer, more complicated sentences, you may give the impression that you are educated and knowledgeable.  However this can also backfire — if you write complicated sentences with grammatical mistakes, readers may assume that you are only pretending to be well-educated.  This is a particular challenge for students from marginalized communities — wherever you grew up, you naturally learned the grammatical expectations of your family, your friends, and your school system.  Often times, the grammatical expectations of conversational English differ from those of academic writing, and well-educated authors who naturally use complicated sentence structures in with conversational grammar may be incorrectly labelled as "uneducated" in their academic writing.

Additionally, academic writing does not make blanket declarations — instead, a well-written research paper will describe multiple possibilities and then weigh these different interpretations of reality.  Because of this, academic writing must be cautious — your research papers should indicate your best interpretation of the facts and truth, but you cannot claim absolute knowledge because future research may disprove your findings.  Because of this, academic writing often includes the cautious reservations of hedging.

Example: Why We Vary Our Sentences

When you write, the words alone must carry the intonations and rhythm of language that comes naturally when you speak.  If every sentence has the same length and style, the effect is similar to speaking in a monotone.

Short Sentences Are More Direct and Emotional

Shorter, more direct sentences carry a stronger emotional impact.  "I love children" feels more real and authentic than "I love the presence of children."

Rhetorically, shorter sentences often carry a greater effect on pathos.  When combined with conversational diction, you can make strong declarative statements that will carry real impact with audiences.  Additionally, such sentences may use more figurative rather than literal language to add emphasis.

This may require you to cut excess words, as recommended by  In some cases you may truncate your sentences, removing grammatical components of speech to streamline your writing.