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What is style?

Style refers to how someone expresses themselves in writing—in other words, what makes their writing sound like them. Just like how someone might choose clothes based on their mood, the weather, or the persona they’d like to convey, style allows writers to adopt a particular “aesthetic” tailored to their purpose, context, and personality.  

The two main building blocks of style are diction and syntax:  

  • Diction refers to word choice. A writer might choose a certain word based on its denotation—its dictionary definition—or its connotation—the “slang” or implied meaning a word can pick up in certain contexts.  
  • Syntax refers to sentence structure. The length and complexity of sentences are matters of syntax, as are the ways that different clauses are arranged and how they flow. Choosing different kinds of syntax allows writers to manipulate the qualities of rhythm and coherence throughout a piece of writing. While they aren’t the only methods writers have for creating their own style, diction and syntax are powerful tools for establishing the persona they wish to present to their audience.