10 Ways to Find Your Writing Style

How to Find Your Writing Style

Writing with styleFinding your writing style is like having a skill that can season your words from weak to wonderful. Each of us has access to the same alphabet, 26 letters and not a vowel or consonant more. It’s what we do with our selection of sounds that lends the greatest strength to our voice. Having a toolbox filled with a few succinct tips might be all you need to push your prose a little closer to perfection.

Writing with the right style can render your language more precise. Precision = Power.

You may believe you are already writing with clarity, your words ringing with the clear chime of a chapel bell and loudly declaring the depths of your soul, but others might only be hearing a faded warble of your heart’s true song. The difficulty in defining style lies in it’s subjectivity. Every person will approach your prose with a different perspective, each of them having a different idea about what makes for interesting style.

Everyone places language in their own unique packaging, yet there are a few clear choices when it comes to finding your finest voice. Pick a few of these tips, memorize, and you’ll be wielding words in a whole new way before you even know it.

Color Outside the Lines. It’s cool to be messy. You can rarely ignore conventions, a comma is a comma and even Stephen King can’t make it otherwise, but staying fixed on the same rules that echo through the halls of grammar school probably won’t win you a Pulitzer, or even a Newbery for that matter.

Give Your Thoughts Breath. Nothing is perfect the first time through. Period. If you labor over your work, sentence by sentence, you will never allow your ideas a chance to spill over the lip of restriction. Write, pause (if you must), keep writing, repeat. It isn’t always easy and you might make a mess, but you can always clean up later. It is far more important to unleash your thoughts than it is to get them perfect.

Read Your Work Out Loud. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Sometimes our words read differently than our thoughts. Reading our work out loud affords our lips a chance to catch the errors our eyes gloss over. It is best to read out loud to an audience, but the best way to know if you’re writing has voice is to use the one in your throat.

Be Authentic. Never try to sound more intelligent than you are. That’s not writing with style, it’s writing with embarrassment. Write naturally and your innate intelligence will surely shine through. Though it is tempting to try to gild your words with intellect, it is almost always a mistake. If you wouldn’t use a word in a spoken sentence, you shouldn’t use in your prose.

Cook without a Recipe. The best chefs, even when cooking from an index card, can also cook by taste. Instinct is (by far) the most important ingredient for finding your unique writing style.

Pay Close Attention to Your Tone. It isn’t only what you say, it’s how you say it. Tone is important and knowing your audience is key. Your reader should feel as comfortable with your words as they are engaged by your rhythm.

Creativity is Borrowed. No one holds copyright on thought. Plagiarism is theft, but we are each the aggregate of every book read, movie seen, or conversation heard. No one in the world shares your exact canvas of experience. Use what’s in your head. Don’t worry about saying something that no one’s said before, just make sure you say it in your own way.

Write every day. The patch of land that gets the water is the soil that swells with life. The only way to improve a skill is to practice. Those who write without routine are less likely to be writing with consistent voice than those are arranging words within their sleep.

Believe. Writing with style won’t happen if you don’t believe in your topic. Believing in yourself comes first. A common fear among writers is that they will run out of things to say. Don’t allow the fear of running low on ideas paralyze you. The well of ideas is bottomless, but you must lower the bucket to draw from its depths.

Know What You Mean and Your Reader Will Too. Readers know when their author lacks confidence. Daily speech is filled with um’s and ah’s. Writing is no different, often stuffed with more than its share of this’s and thats. Cut the fat. Choose clarity over word count. There is always room for beautiful prose when you make it, but you must mow the lawn to highlight the garden.

Your arrangement of words gives voice to the thread of your thought. Every writer will develop their own tool box of 2 or 10 or 20 tricks (or ticks) that will help tickle their text and transform it to terrific. Mine is alliteration.

Finding your style will give you control, controlling your prose allowing the reader to truly hear what you’re saying. It isn’t always easy, but is always worth the effort.

The Collective Inkwell Community Question: What methods do you use to give your work voice and inject it with style?

Sean Platt is a dad and ghostwriter who also tweets.

33 responses to 10 Ways to Find Your Writing Style

  1. Solomon

    It’s after a so many years I found my voice. I can’t agree more with all the points mentioned. What attracted me most is the -creativity borrowed; and believe… and all the points :0)
    I’ve written a post on similar thought as I was contemplating on this topic of writing with lot of ease and flair. Great insights Sean!

    Solomon’s last blog post..Ride the crest of the writer’s learning curve!

    • Sean

      Thanks, Solomon. Truth be told, “Creativity is borrowed,” is a line a stole right from the mouth of my wife. She says it all the time, and might have even said it on our first date.

  2. janice

    “What methods do you use to give your work voice and inject it with style?”

    I don’t have methods, but I’ve recognised that I’m old enough and brave enough to be vulnerable, to be myself, faults and all. I’m lyrical – many hate it – but that’s who I am. I was a singer/songwriter and my passion for lyrics runs deep. I can write in many styles and capture daily speech and dialogue, but I simply accept that there are times when it’s a relief to let my heart and soul overflow in language you rarely find spoken out loud. I listen to the words I love – work by other writers, songs, poetry, things my kids say – and ask myself why and how they touched me. I try to write with awareness and presence, authenticity and a genuine desire to connect, support and inspire.

    janice’s last blog post..Poetry, Wedding Vows and Gift Ideas for Loved Ones

    • janice

      Just had a thought; it’s not a ‘method’, exactly, but I relish all my senses and try to be aware of how I express them in my writing. Hope some of this answers your question, Sean. Great post – I’m sure it’ll garner a lot of useful insights from the community.

      janice’s last blog post..Poetry, Wedding Vows and Gift Ideas for Loved Ones

      • Sean

        I really like lyrics as well, and they have no doubt influenced my writing greatly. I have been an avid music lover for far more of my life than I’ve been a writer, and great lyrics have always been my favorite thing to listen for.

  3. Ann Brennan

    I like this one. My husband says he likes my writing but finds it odd that my writing voice is not my speaking one. I don’t think that is true but who knows.

    Thanks for all of the great advice.


    Ann Brennan’s last blog post..New Discoveries

  4. Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

    Great post, Sean. I think what Janice said about being brave and vulnerable enough to be herself in her writing is really important, too. All the tips you share can definitely help a person identify and uncover their true writing style and voice. but we need to make sure not to “try on” different voices like fancy clothes or costumes that don’t ultimately suit us. That’s the tricky line to tread.

    When I’m doing branding/voice work for clients, my goal is to uncover their tone–not just what they might say in a given situation, but *how* they would say it. It’s a matter of identifying what words and cadence they would use, and how those things differ from what someone else might say/write. I often prepare a several-page voice document to help them get their mind around it. A fun exercise for writers might be to find a friend who knows you well (knows how you talk, reads a lot of your writing) and understands language/has a love for words. Then you could write up a “voice document” for each other, with the goal being to pinpoint what makes the other person’s style unique.

    Kristin T. (@kt_writes)’s last blog post..The sort of people who set my tears free

    • Sean

      Kristin: I LOVE the idea of a voice document! I’ve never even thought of that before, but it is a really, really terrific idea.

      Sean’s last blog post..Meme Oh My-O

  5. Trina

    Though no practicing writer myself, I enjoy learning from tips such as these. Colouring outside the lines is something I have enjoyed in many facets of my life.

  6. Sean

    Trina: You are totally a practicing writer, Trina. Every time you drop a comment or tweet, you are taking the thoughts from inside your head and transplanting them to somewhere else. THAT is writing.

    Sean’s last blog post..Meme Oh My-O

  7. Mary Anne Fisher

    I’m fairly introverted and finding my voice has been by far one of my biggest writing challenges. Your writing / speaking insight is dead on.

    Although it’s fading, my distant-past corporate writing experience cast a long, stuffy and hard-to-lose shadow on my work, so I really connected with your “Color Outside the Lines” and “Cook without a Recipe” tips.

    I’ve learned that when I’m not writing about something I have a passion for, my writing suffers greatly. Working on that, too. 😉

    Thanks for this, Sean.

    Mary Anne Fisher’s last blog post..Why Providing Massive Value Isn’t Enough in Today’s Online Marketplace

    • Sean

      I don’t think I’d be half the writer I hope to be if I’d ever been trained. One day I just started writing. I had no mechanics, only instinct, but I believe it really helped to strengthen my voice. I can imagine writing corporate copy would be shackles to the muse.

    • Sean

      You got it, Hayden! Right there! You write like you think. There is no better way to find you voice.

    • Sean

      Yup, blogging is like taking a crash course in writing. How could you not pour countless hours into something without refining yourself?

  8. Kolammal

    You simply rock, Sean! This is one of the best pieces I have read on writing. Either my reading has been scanty or your writing has been extraordinary – but I believe the latter to be true. A perfect guide for every writer. I loved this of all – “Cut the fat. Choose clarity over word count. There is always room for beautiful prose when you make it, but you must mow the lawn to highlight the garden.”

    I have always been unwilling to cut the fat though now I have learned to do it. Also, I have gilded my words often. Though I am working at avoiding all that you say we should avoid, this is a great writing manifesto for all of us. And, this will stay as one for a long time.

    Keep writing! 🙂

    Kolammal’s last blog post..Wilderness

    • Sean

      Thanks! You win best comment for sure. : > )

      I’ve no intentions of ever stopping. Not now. Not ever.

  9. Marc - WelshScribe

    Great list Sean. Being authentic is my number one weapon of choice.

    I’m not much of a speaker, I’m an introvert like Mary Anne but I have no problem spilling my “ink” all over the page when it comes to writing.

    • Sean

      I sometimes think that introverts make the best writers. It’s like they have to unleash all the thoughts that have thus far gone unspoken.

  10. Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)

    I still don’t fully understand writing style. It does make complete sense to believe what you write and write from your heart and your head. Possibly it’s the skill of linking all these ‘sources’ that leads to a style of writing. For me, this would take writing every day. Lots of value in this post – thanks.

    Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)’s last blog post..The Generation Gap

    • Sean

      The key, I believe, IS in writing every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot – even ten minutes a day added over a time will strengthen the writing muscles. Like push-ups or sit-ups, a little every day will add up to a lot.

  11. Anuan

    I just found your site via problogger. I feel like a kid in a candy store with the information you are sharing. I am a writer ‘wanna-be’. So your tips are very useful. Thank you. Will come back.

    Anuan’s last blog post..Miso Soup

  12. Jennifer Ryan | I Choose Change

    I feel like a kid in a candy store as well (as Anuan stated above). I’ve been recommend to your site several times by friends and colleagues (bloggers), but this is actually my first time here and I love this post! Your writing style sucked me in, as it should.

    I’m a new writer, stepping out of my comfort zone as “therapist” and putting my thoughts in black and white rather than having them left in a closed room where a client stares back at me, begging for wisdom and insight with their tentative, yet hopeful eyes. I’m never afraid to “color outside the lines” with one or two people in my counseling office, yet writing my words of insight and wisdom for many to read has left me feeling more vulnerable than I’m used to feeling, yet hopeful. I am loving this new leap and I thank you for this dose of inspiration!

    • Sean

      My pleasure Jennifer. I came to writing late in life; I’ve only been doing it a bit more than a year, but once you find your voice it’s as easy as chewing gum and walking, you’re just moving your fingers while you think.

  13. jan geronimo

    “If you labor over your work, sentence by sentence, you will never allow your ideas a chance to spill over the lip of restriction.”

    That, my good sir, is what I struggle with daily. That’s why it takes me a long time to finish my post. It will be quite a relief to just let go, wouldn’t it?

    Coloring outside the line takes courage or a certain level of recklessness. Perhaps I should give this a try occasionally. It’s quite tempting. Well, I am old enough as it is. I can always duck, right? If it comes to that…”,)

    jan geronimo’s last blog post..The Art of Getting What You Want in the Blogosphere

  14. Twitter Trackbacks for Writing With Style [collectiveinkwell.com] on Topsy.com

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