What is a writing tone and style and how to create it when writing?

What is Writing Tone?

  • The writer’s attitude towards the subject.
  • To do with the writer or narrator’s personality — a way of showing the character of the person behind the story or nonfiction piece.
  • For fiction, the tone can be tied to the narrator of the story, and therefore different from the writer themselves. However, some writers often use an omniscient narrator, in which case the narrative voice is usually similar to their own voice. Ernest Hemingway, for instance, writes in a voice similar to his own by using a candid, philosophical tone with a sparse prose style:

What Is Writing Style?

  • The overall impression/feeling of your writing.
  • Similar to style in visual fields — fashion, art, architecture. Part of the creative expression of the text.
  • Both fiction (stories) and non-fiction (articles, blogs, speeches, letters, diary entries, etc) have a specific style.
  • The style you choose shows personality and identity, it reveals your grammatical knowledge and vocabulary.
  • Style can be direct or indirect — you can use words that create a specific style, but it also comes from the sentence length (syntax), punctuation, paragraph structuring, and language techniques that you use. The best writers will create a style that is specific to them, using elements of all of these things.
  • You need to actively work on creating your own personal style if you want to write effectively. Try to think of your personality and how you would like that to come across through the words you use and the way that you write.
  • Practise adapting your style to suit different purposes and text types. For a speech, you might adopt a crisp, rhetorical, and argumentative style, whereas for a story you might try to be more poetic, euphuistic, and verbose.

What to Focus on when Writing an Essay

Final tips for creating a good tone + style:

  • Avoid circumlocution (saying something in a long-winded/roundabout or unnecessarily complicated way).
  • Adjectives and adverbs create extra detail and description.
  • BUT an interesting noun or verb is even better.
  • Avoid negative phrasing unless it’s completely necessary.
  • Lots of techniques e.g. simile, metaphor, alliteration, anaphora, repetition — a range of techniques creates a very specific style.
  • Be logical and precise about your points/ideas (be specific, not general)
  • Stay on topic / be relevant to your question or purpose.
  • Use active voice most of the time e.g. I wrote the essay (active) / the essay was written by me (passive).

Thanks for reading! If you find this page useful, you can take a look at our full English Language, Literature, Grammar, and Writing courses here.