Category Archives: Writing Style

The Power of a Conversational Writing Style

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I was at my beautician friend’s house getting a haircut when her husband, Randy, came home. He’s not a writer or interested in becoming one. But, whenever Randy is around, I know he’ll ask about my work. We’ve gotten past, “What do you write?” He understands that I write books. He’s asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”and I’ve told him I pray before I write and ask for God’s guidance. Somehow the ideas just come. But on this particular haircut day Randy wanted to know,

“Who do you write for?”

(I wanted to correct his grammar, but I didn’t.) I rambled on about editors, writing assignments and deadlines. I talked about publishers and digressed into explaining what it means to freelance. —

“I meant WHO do you write for?” he interrupted me. “Kids? Adults?”

“Both,” I said. Then I added,

“I write for every person reading my book. I want my words to make each reader feel like I’ve written the book just for him or her.”

I could have gone on and made the poor guy sit through a lesson on informal writing and conversational tone, but I didn’t. I’m sure he was grateful.

When I write here on the blog and also when I write devotionals I prefer a conversational voice. Yes, it breaks the rules of formal writing, but there are benefits.

  • A conversational tone connects the reader with the writer.
  • It allows the writer to get ideas across using fewer words.
  • It holds readers’ interest longer and makes them want to read more.
  • A conversational tone is more inviting and entertaining.
  • It increases readership.
  • A conversational tone flows easily and naturally, like a friendly conversation with Randy!

dialoogKurt Vonnegut said, “The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child . . . I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.”

 

Think about your writing style. Is it formal or informal?
What about your style makes your readers want to come back for more?

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Kurt Vonnegut— 7 Rules from “How to Write with Style”

autumnforestiStock_000015040283XSmallI’ve just come back from a walk in the woods where the changing patterns of autumn colors and sunlight reminded me of this quotation:

“Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as a painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.”

—Truman Capote

Rearranging the rules = Style. Style is the unique way that a writer connects with his or her readers.

Kurt Vonnegut offered seven rules in his essay “How to Write with Style.”

1.  “Find A Subject You Care About. Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

2. Do Not Ramble.

3. Keep It Simple. Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story ‘Eveline’ is just this one: ‘She was tired.’ At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

4. Have The Guts To Cut. If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

5. Sound Like Yourself. The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child . . . I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.

6. Say What You Mean. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledly-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

7. Pity The Readers. Readers have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately . . .Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient teachers, ever willing to simplify and clarify, whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.”

(You can read Vonnegut’s complete essay HERE.)

If you compare works from Capote and Vonnegut, you will discover two great writers with two distinct styles. How is your writing style unique? How do you rearrange the rules to suit yourself?

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*NOTE: Any ads appearing in this post were not put there by me nor do I endorse them. WordPress sometimes posts ads in exchange for hosting this free blog.

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