Understanding the 4 Writing Styles (And How to Use Them)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 24, 2022 | Published November 5, 2021

Updated August 24, 2022

Published November 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Effective communication involves clearly expressing ideas, opinions, and information. If you communicate regularly in writing, there are various ways you can present your message to readers. Understanding the different styles of writing can help you choose one that aligns your message and audience and ensures effective communication. In this article, we define writing styles, outline what makes each style unique, and present the four styles of writing that you can use.

What are writing styles?

Writing styles are techniques for conveying your message in a way that is meaningful and effective to a reader. While you often use one technique, understanding the different styles is important because you may need to change how you write to connect with a diverse audience. For example, a salesperson's method of selling a product to customers is often different from how they might report sales to their manager. Using a suitable writing style can help keep your audience engaged with your message and encourage positive feedback.

Related: Which Written Communication Skills Are Important in the Workplace?

What makes a writing style unique?

Here are the factors that make each writing style different from others:

Word choice

Depending on your reader, you may use different words to communicate your messages for each writing style. For example, if you're requesting donations, you may choose more compelling words than when writing to appreciate a colleague. Selecting the right word often requires you to use your intuition, know the reader's preferences, and understand the writing style. You may use a dictionary and thesaurus to find the most suitable words for a writing style. A thesaurus is a book or online resource that lists synonyms for various words.

Sentence structure

Each writing style also has a way of arranging sentences to relay a message. This may involve using definitive statements, grouping ideas, or modifying thoughts to maintain consistency. Review how to form sentences in the writing style you choose to ensure it can help your communication.

Paragraph structure

The primary purpose of writing is to present information to your reader. To make your writing easier to follow, you can arrange sentences in flowing paragraphs that complement one another. While each writing style often has a different way of creating sentence groups, it's important your paragraphs contain one specific message.

The 4 styles of writing (with examples)

Explore these four styles of writing that you can use in your work:

1. Descriptive writing style

Descriptive writing engages the reader in a story by creating clear characters, settings, and events. The purpose of this writing style is to make the reader feel like they're experiencing the events for themselves. Descriptive writing is typically lengthy and examples include poems, personal journals, and lyrics. You can also use this writing style to discuss stories, such as a brief biography or autography written to introduce a new hire to the company.

Example: John was the top performer in his history class of over 20 students. Receiving high grades consistently, he knew he could apply his skills in a different context and explore his creative passions. He felt the desire to switch majors, and despite his excellent grades, he knew what he had to do. It was time. On the last day of the month, he walked to the administrative office with confidence and a smile and made the switch. That was the start of his rewarding career in surgery, and the rest is history.

2. Narrative writing style

Narrative writing expands upon descriptive writing to tell an entire story with a beginning, middle, and end. It follows a clear storyline and plot, like screenplays, memoirs, short stories, anecdotes, or fictional novels. While the narrative writing style is common among creative professionals, you may also use it in the workplace. For example, a salesperson may use a narrative writing style to discuss an anecdote and prepare the reader for their sales pitch.

Example: Kylie glanced at Joe. "You're ready?" she asked. "I think we have to be," he replied. Holding hands, they walked to the door and flipped the sign. K&J's Restaurant was open for the first time. Swinging the door open, Joe let the frigid December air in as the welcome bell announced the restaurant's opening. They waited, but no one came. Hours passed, and as they were ready to close, the bell rang again. "You open?" A young man poked his head in, rubbing his hands. Kylie looked at Joe, who was grinning with a smile. "We sure are!" they echoed.

3. Persuasive writing style

Persuasive writing convinces a reader to agree with your idea, information, or thought. It involves combining research with logical reasoning and building an emotional connection with the reader. This style of writing often involves compelling words and phrases and is common when preparing job application documents, company brochures, business proposals, and ads. Depending on the target audience and your purpose, persuasive writing may involve referencing an expert on the topic.

Example: Join us for an exciting night at K&J's restaurant this Friday. You want to bring your children for a fun night of games, crafts, and surprises. Enjoy 25% off on our poutine and all the delicious pizza meals you've heard about. If you order a large pizza on Friday, you'd also have an extra slice for free. You won't find a more fun way to start your weekend, so reserve your table by calling 345-131-8777 today!

4. Expository writing style

Expository writing informs, explains, or describes an idea, thought, or information to a reader. As a popular writing style, it's useful for answering questions a reader may have. For example, many companies use an expository writing style when creating newsletters, guides, website pages, and educational articles. Writing with an expository style often requires you to separate your opinions from the facts you're sharing. For example, creating a newsletter typically involves presenting information without using editorializing words.

Example: K&J's Restaurant serves more than 150 customers per day. Established in 1983, Kylie and Joe envisioned a place where community members would come to share a meal. "They only had big dreams," shared Hannah Frutty, Joe's eldest sister. The shop is now a landmark in Ontario's suburban areas. With a growing business, Kylie and Joe are ready to open four more locations across the country by the year's end.

Tips for using a writing style

Here are the best practices for using a chosen writing style to communicate your message:

Understand your message and audience

Effective writing requires you to determine your reader in advance and what style suits your message. You also want to consider the writing style your audience responds to and why. Consider their opinion about the subject and their educational level, location, age, and personality.

Related: Important Skills Every Good Writer Must Possess

Create an outline

An outline directs you on what to include in written content. By creating sections on paper, you can order your thoughts and better establish your points. An outline can also help ensure that you have enough content to cover the topic extensively.

Make your introduction engaging

If well-written, the first sentence and paragraph can leave a good impression on your reader. Aim to make your introduction interesting, regardless of the writing style you choose. An engaging introduction can encourage your audience to continue reading.

Related: How to Write an Effective Email Introduction

Try combining styles

Depending on your purpose for writing a message, you may combine writing techniques. For example, a salesperson may use narrative and persuasive arguments to create a sales pitch. Combining styles can be a more successful way to relay your message.

Use literary devices appropriately

Literary devices can improve your writing and make your content more captivating. Consider the following:

  • simile: involves direct comparisons of objects, individuals, or locations.

  • metaphor: is a figure of speech that involves applying a word or phrase to an object or action to which it's not often literally applicable.

  • flashback: informs the reader about a previous activity or event, typically in narrative or descriptive writing.

  • personification: attributes the nature or characteristics of an individual to objects or locations.

Use the three appeals

These appeals are useful for persuasive, narrative, and descriptive writing. They include:

  • appeal to reason: involves using statistics, facts, and social proof to support your topic.

  • appeal to character: involves showing your expertise and presenting yourself as credible and trustworthy.

  • appeal to emotion: involves making an emotional connection with the reader to agree with your topic

Proofread for errors and check for accuracy

Regardless of the writing style you choose, check your work for spelling and grammar errors. You can use online checkers to optimize the process. If possible, have a friend, colleague, mentor, or career coach edit your work before you send it to the intended reader.

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