It hinges on their use of syntax, word choice, intentions, mood, and audience. The writer’s style, while sometimes overlooked, is a critical part of how a story is received as well as how it unfolds. It should be analyzed along with the plot, conflict, characters, themes, and the other fundamentals of narrative writing. Some writers, as explored below, have clear and defining styles. They are easily recognizable when compared to others.
Definition of Style
Commonly the author’s style is also referred to as the author’s “voice.” Meaning, the voice the reader hears when they’re reading. It will be an important influence on how much the reader enjoys the literary work and the perceptions they have of the world the writer is creating. Not every reader will enjoy every writer’s style. Some are drawn to more descriptive writing, while others like narrative or more poetic-sounding and flowery writing.
Examples of Style in Literature
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
In this short novel, Hemingway demonstrates his much-discussed writing style. He is known for uses a simple, direct style. His prose lacks flowery language or any unnecessary writing. Many scholars attribute this fact to his time working as a journalist for various newspapers.
You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive, and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?
Throughout the novel, Hemingway’s main character addresses life in this direct tone. He explores his relationship to the sea and to the fish he’s trying to catch in a way that can’t be misinterpreted by the reader. Some readers will find themselves drawn to Hemingway’s prose, while others will be turned off by how unadorned and direct the text is.
Discover Ernest Hemingway’s poetry and Hemingway’s best books.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Commonly considered to be Emily Brontë’s masterpiece, Wuthering Heights is a complex story of love, betrayal, social climbing, and family history. The novel opens with a new tenant arriving at Wuthering Heights to meet with Heathcliff. The following quote provides an example of the descriptive style. Readers get a lot of information about what the house is like:
Above the chimney were sundry villainous old guns, and a couple of horse-pistols: and, by way of ornament, three gaudily-painted canisters disposed along its ledge. The floor was of smooth, white stone; the chairs, high-backed, primitive structures, painted green: one or two heavy black ones lurking in the shade. In an arch under the dresser reposed a huge, liver-coloured bitch pointer, surrounded by a swarm of squealing puppies; and other dogs haunted other recesses.
In this passage, the narrator describes what the inside of the house looks like. He uses words like “villainous,” “old,” “gaudily,” “primitive,” “lurking,” “swarm,” and “haunted.” All of these words help create a very specific atmosphere. Brontë’s style of writing comes through clearly here.
Read Emily Brontë’s poetry.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Austen’s well-loved novel is noted for its use of an ironic and witty style of writing. This is contrasted with a few more romantic/lyrical moments. The following quote is one good example of the former:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife
Throughout the novel, many of the characters say things that are clearly the opposite of what they mean and attempt to prove themselves, and end up doing exactly the opposite. These opening lines set the tone for the rest of the novel in that they suggest that everyone is looking for exactly the same thing and that no one, at least not in their right mind, would turn down a good marriage.
Explore Jane Austen’s poetry and Austen’s best books.
The Importance of Style
Style is a broad term that’s incredibly important in literature. Every writer has their own style. They are more or less effective at conveying different situations and points of view. It’s important that the writer be aware of their own style and the influence it has on others. Some are far more suited to one type of writing than another. The same can be said for stories. A very serious academic paper shouldn’t have a conversational style, just as a fantasy novel probably shouldn’t have an academic, formal style.
A writer’s style is the manner in which they write. It might be direct, lyrical, ironic, descriptive, etc.
A formal style uses academic language, avoids figures of speech, and is always professional.
The elements of style are sentence form, diction, connotation, and punctuation. Some also consider the use of figurative language and clichés as important parts of style.
Related words are writing style, technique, and method.
Related Literary Terms
- First Person Point of View: a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about him or herself.
- Stream of Consciousness: a style of writing in which thoughts are conveyed without a filter or clear punctuation.
- Colloquial Diction: conversational in nature and can be seen through the use of informal words that represent a specific place or time.
- Formal Diction: used when the setting is sophisticated. This could be anything from a speech to a paper submitted to a journal.
- Atmosphere: a literary technique that is concerned with the feeling readers get from the elements of a narrative.
- Audience: the group for which an artist or writer makes a piece of art or writes.