Friday, April 15, 2011


With a root in the Latin word stylus which is "a pointed instrument used for writing." Today, "style" has taken on so many meanings which includes "the way in which something is said, done, expressed, or performed.". Often equated with figures of speech, it is also usually said that each writer has his or her own style.

What does it mean to write "with style"? Is style a quality that writers have in them, a gift? Is it something they learn? Does it grow over time? Can a style ever be good or bad--or is it more a matter of taste? We found some definitions from some old masters.

  • "People think that I can teach them style. What stuff it all is! Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style." (Matthew Arnold)
  • "A man's style should be like his dress. It should be as unobtrusive and should attract as little attention as possible." (C. E. M. Joad)
  • "When we see a natural style, we are astonished and delighted; for we expected to see an author, and we find a man." (Blaise Pascal)
  • "The essence of a sound style is that it cannot be reduced to rules--that it is a living and breathing thing with something of the devilish in it--that it fits its proprietor tightly yet ever so loosely, as his skin fits him. It is, in fact, quite as seriously an integral part of him as that skin is. . . . In brief, a style is always the outward and visible symbol of a man, and cannot be anything else." (H.L. Mencken)
  • "You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being."  (Katherine Anne Porter)
  • "What's important is the way we say it. Art is all about craftsmanship. Others can interpret craftsmanship as style if they wish. Style is what unites memory or recollection, ideology, sentiment, nostalgia, presentiment, to the way we express all that. It's not what we say but how we say it that matters." (Federico Fellini)
  • "Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of style." (Jonathan Swift)
  • "The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you have never heard of to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off." (Raymond Chandler)

What is style to you? How important is it to writing?

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