Career Development

4 Common Writing Styles: When and How to Use Them

May 26, 2021

If you are doing any type of writing in the workplace, it's essential to have a clear understanding of the different writing styles and which one you should be using.

Writing is one of the most effective mediums to get a message across. Whether your job title requires quality writing - for example, if you are a content creator or social media manager - or not, you are going to need to write at some point.

Throughout your career, it's crucial to develop your writing skills. One of the best ways to do so is by analysing which writing technique is most suitable for the work you have to do. This article will detail the main writing styles and give you some useful insight into the best one to use.

What is a writing technique?

A writing technique is a manner in which an author conveys their message. The writing style should make the writer's message effective and impactful to their audience.

It's imperative to use the correct writing style, as it varies depending on your audience and your intention.

For example, if you work in marketing, you will be writing to sell products to your audience. Therefore, your style should be persuasive (although, as we will explore later, it could also be descriptive or narrative depending on the advertisement).

However, if you work in management and create a training booklet, your writing style will be informative.

These two writing styles have notable differences, so it's important to have a really clear idea of your technique before starting to write.

Types of writing styles

Descriptive writing style

The descriptive writing style is reserved for storytelling. When you use this style, you create an intricate network of characters, events and settings and weave them all together in your writing. You will also use similes, metaphors and other literary tools.

This writing style should engross the reader, helping them visualise the events - almost as if they are experiencing them.

While this writing style is a storytelling style, the texts are typically not very long; generally only the length of an average poem or a journal entry.

You can use this writing style to describe marketing campaigns or for brief but vivid company descriptions.

Narrative writing style

The narrative writing style is very similar to the descriptive writing style, but it expands on the descriptive style to create a longer story. Narrative writing will be well structured, with a clear storyline and a plot.

Like descriptive writing, the narrative style includes literary tools such as metaphors and similes. However, you might use more complex methods in narrative writing, such as allegories, microcosms, flashbacks and foreshadowing. It will have several different stages, a main plot running through and will introduce multiple characters.

Examples of text written in a narrative style are novels, screenplays and scripts. Creative professionals often use narrative writing throughout their work, but it is also commonly employed in the marketing spectrum.

Persuasive writing style

Persuasive writing attempts to influence the reader. If you are employing this type of writing, you are attempting to make the reader believe a certain way.

Persuasive writing is an art; writers should combine facts and logic with emotive language that influences the reader to consider their beliefs and opinions.

Some persuasive writing includes phrases like “this is the most beautiful beach in Queensland” or “everyone knows coffee is best in Melbourne”. The writer has stated these phrases like facts but they are actually opinions. You may use this type of persuasive writing in some of your work; however, some persuasive writing requires you to be 100% accurate.

You use persuasive writing throughout your professional and day to day life, including your emails and other communications. For example, you employ persuasive writing in some form when you text your friend, persuading them to book a holiday with you or asking your manager for extra annual leave.

However, particular examples where professionals will use persuasive writing include creating sales pitches, smaller advertisements, business proposals and cover letters. Persuasive writing is one of the most important writing styles to master.

Expository writing style

Expository writing informs the reader. The expository writing style does not use complex literary tools like the descriptive and narrative styles or hyperbolic language like we have seen in the persuasive style. Instead, the expository writing style states plain facts and answers questions simply.

When using the expository writing style, you will answer questions that you assume the reader will have. Your opinion should not influence the writing.

You can use expository writing for internal communication in the workplace. How-to-guides and newsletters are common examples of expository writing.

You may also use expository writing when addressing customers. For example, some of your businesses' webpages, which aim to give clear information, may use the expository writing style. You will also use an expository writing style for any important business statements.

How to define your writing style

Here are some prompts that you can ask yourself in order to define your writing style.

  • Who is my audience?
  • What do I want my audience to do after reading this text?
  • How do I want my audience to feel?
  • What is my message?

Who is my audience?

The audience is the most important part of any professional writing. If your audience are colleagues, you will probably be either stating information or persuading and will therefore use the persuasive or expository writing style.

However, if your audience are potential customers, you may be illustrating something to them or even telling them a story - so you may use the descriptive or narrative writing styles. You may also use the persuasive writing style to speak to potential customers.

What do I want my audience to do after reading this text?

This question addresses the intention of your message. If you want your audience to follow your instructions, you are probably writing in an expository style. If you want them to act on anything you have discussed in the text, you should write in a persuasive style.

However, if you want your reader to feel inspired, intrigued or involved in the story, you will likely need to write in descriptive or narrative writing styles.

How do I want my audience to feel?

If you simply want your audience to feel informed, you should probably write in an expository style. However, if you want your audience to have an emotional connection, you may need to write in a persuasive style. Narrative or descriptive styles also usually invoke emotion.

What is my message?

Consider, in simple terms, what your message is. If it is simply 'how to move your documents over to the new server', you will be writing in an expository style. If your message is ‘try out our new mascara', this is likely persuasive style.

However, if your message is more complex and you are using a story to describe your message, you will be writing in descriptive or narrative styles. The main difference between these two is that narratives are longer and more intricate.

More tips for using writing styles in business writing

Combine writing styles

While it's important to be fully aware of the style you'd like to use, many texts use two or more writing styles. This means that you don't need to limit yourself to just one style if you have more complex needs and you can add different techniques in different parts of the text.

For example, if you are writing a marketing script for an advertisement, you may be using a narrative style throughout, but incorporating some parts of the persuasive writing style when it comes to actually selling the product.

Or, if you are writing a blog post for your company, you may use an expository style throughout as you state the information that you are telling your reader. At the end, when you are discussing your company's offerings, you can include a persuasive aspect.

Use literary devices

Literary devices generally work best with descriptive and narrative writing styles. If your writing suits these literary devices, that is a good indicator that you need to use one of these two styles.

Improve your language

For all four writing styles, the right language is essential.

  • The descriptive writing style may use elaborate language, with some writing tools like alliteration or rhyming language.
  • The narrative writing style will use similar language, with a broader range of writing tools and different tones in different parts of the text.
  • Persuasive writing uses emotive and strong language. You can tell your readers your opinion, with words like ‘I believe' or ‘in my experience'. You will also likely use emotive words like ‘surely', ‘confident', ‘positively' and ‘undeniable'.
  • Expository writing uses simple words that are easy for everybody to understand. For example, instead of using the word ‘idiosyncratic', which is not in most people's vocabulary, use ‘peculiar'.

When doing any workplace writing you should be clear on what style or styles, you need to use. Doing so will help you to establish what language to use, what tone to write in and how to speak to your reader. The right writing style will help you connect with your reader in your intended way.

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