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Introduction to Style

Introduction to Style

Author: Mackenzie W
Description:

Understand style and how writers utilize it.

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Tutorial

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi, everyone. I'm Mackenzie, and today we're learning about introduction to style. Do you ever change the way you talk depending on the situation or the person you're talking to? In this tutorial, we'll learn about an introduction to style. We'll discuss style and genre, and we'll discuss style and audience.

We'll begin by discussing the definition of style. Style isn't necessarily what you write but rather how you write it. And this can include different components of writing, such as word choice, tone, sentence structure, and sentence variation and so on. Even though we're focused on the way that we write something rather than the content of the writing, style does influence the content, as well. For example, if we're writing for a particular intended audience, that changes the style with which we approach that audience because we know that different audiences have different reactions to different types of writing.

We can also think about conventions, which are standards or expectations kind of like scripts for different types of writing. For example, if I am writing something in a formal writing style, I know that a convention is that I should avoid the words "you" and "I" because they're too informal for that type of writing. Or an everyday example could be a convention of using the word "guys" to describe a group of people, even if that group includes women.

When we're writing, it's our job to determine what style to use. We have to decide what is most appropriate. We could use formal writing, which tends to be rather professional or academic in nature. But that doesn't mean that the style of formal writing has to be overly fancy or complicated or even include a lot of vocabulary terms.

And we can use informal writing, which is writing that tends to be rather personal, such as a narrative. It can be conversational. It could even include slang or sayings. It's up to us to decide what type of style is most appropriate for our writing, our purpose, our topic, and our audience.

We will now discuss the connection between style and genre. The genre of a piece of writing is the category that type of writing falls into. Genres can be rather broad, such as poetry or fiction, or they can be very specific, such as a scientific report or an academic essay.

It's important for a writer to match his or her style of writing to the genre of writing. The way that we do that is we make sure that we're using specific types of words or conventions within writing that match that genre. If we're going to deviate from these standards or conventions for the genre, we have to do so on purpose. It has to have an intended effect on the writing itself. Otherwise, it won't match the genre, and the quality of the writing will suffer.

We also have to be aware that there could be some differences in the way that our readers perceive our usage of different words, such as vocabulary words. The genre may provide a different context for the meaning of some words, as well. Here are some examples of some pieces of writing that are written using the wrong genre. Take a moment to pause the video and read the examples.

Our first example is a piece of writing that describes to us how to prepare a recipe for a dish called créme brulée, which is a custard-like dessert. But the genre chosen for this is the start of a scientific report. It doesn't quite match the intended goal, which is to communicate to the audience how to prepare créme brulée, because preparing a recipe isn't the same as conducting a science experiment, although I'm sure there are some similarities.

The style of writing matches a scientific report. Take a look at the procedure section. The sentences are very short. Oftentimes they are sentence fragments.

They're missing a subject. There's not a lot of extra discussion or commentary. It simply is a list of actions described in the order in which they were completed.

Take a look at the observations and data section of this scientific report. The only data that we really had is that it took 12 fewer minutes to bake than expected. This proves to us that a scientific report is not the proper genre to describe how to complete a recipe because there isn't a lot of data for us to discuss.

Our second example is written in the genre of the type of thrilling fiction. Perhaps it is a murder mystery. We're using the same example as before-- a recipe about how to prepare créme brulée. And we can clearly see that this is not the correct genre.

The author is describing capturing five egg yolks. The egg yolks are hiding inside of a cardboard hideaway in the refrigerator, their natural habitat. The author describes slowly creeping toward the refrigerator because any sudden movement could startle the eggs. Even though this is a humorous example, it proves to us that we need to select the correct genre in order to express the ideas most clearly.

Here is an example of this particular topic being expressed using the correct genre. The genre here is rather informal. It sounds sort of like a blog entry. The author describes to us the ingredients needed. The author even makes a little joke about the calories in this particular recipe. A joke would certainly be inappropriate for formal writing, but because this is informal writing, it's appropriate for this genre.

Now that we know that genre influences our style choices, we also need to consider our audience. It's our job to match our style to our intended audience. We use the intended audience to help us to decide what type of style to use because different audiences are more or less likely to be informed, persuaded or convinced, or even entertained by different types of styles. If we decide to change our style within our writing, we have to do so for a specific or particular reason. Otherwise it confuses the reader.

Here are some examples of some pieces of writing that are written using the wrong intended audience. Our first example is a persuasive essay about why the reader should adopt a vegan lifestyle. The audience is that of non-vegans. We see this is written in an inappropriate style for the audience.

The author is using words such as "murdering innocent animals" and "blood-thirsty meat eaters." It's alienating the audience in a way that makes them want to not agree with the author. It's likely that this author did not consider his or her audience when choosing the particular word choice reflected by the style of this writing.

Here's another example. We're using the same topic-- adopting a vegan lifestyle. But this time, the author has imagined that his or her audience is young children. We know this because the author says, "your moms and dads probably feed you meat." And even though the rest of the paragraph is written in such a way that a child could probably understand these ideas, a child is an inappropriate audience for this particular topic. The child is not going to be convinced to become a vegan, nor is the child likely to communicate these ideas back to his or her parents.

Using the same example as before, we see that the author has now better appealed to the intended audience with the style he or she chose for the writing. We even see that the author has adjusted the topic to better suit the audience. The topic is now avoiding eating meat one time per week. This is a much easier topic to persuade an audience of meat eaters to agree with.

We also see that the phrasing has been changed. The author is no longer addressing the audience as "blood-thirsty meat eaters." Instead, the author is appealing to the audience with a hook at the beginning of the paragraph to grab their attention and better relate to them. This is a more appropriate style with which to address this particular audience.

In this tutorial, we learned about an introduction to style, and we discussed style and genre and style and audience. Be sure to write with style. I'm Mackenzie. Thanks for listening.

Terms to Know
Audience

The reader of a text, which can be intended (targeted by the author) or unintended (not specifically targeted by the author).

Convention

A standard or tradition.

Genre

Broad or specific categories of writing.

Style

The way a person writes, as opposed to what a person has written, including word choice, tone, and sentence structure.