Types of Writing Styles

One of the things that I learned earlier on is that writing styles are dependent on the author’s goals and the audience.

Having a clear understanding of the different types of writing is important for students, especially those who aspire to be a writer. It is equally important for professionals—every professional has to be acquainted with various writing techniques and styles because good writing forms a critical component of the communication skill set required in any workplace.

If you want to develop your writing skills, you have to learn how to pick out the most effective technique and style to get your message across.

Every piece that you write has to serve a specific purpose; for example, if you want to persuade, you must have content that sways people’s opinions into agreeing with your point of view.

In this article, I have explained all four styles of writing, shared insights on how to develop your writing style, and provided tips on using writing techniques in business writing.

Let’s get started!

writing styles

What is a Writing Style?

A writing style is a distinct method and approach that an author uses to effectively and meaningfully convey their message to their audience. An author’s writing style sets their writing apart from others.

It’s more like the author’s fashion sense.

There are four types of writing styles and each is important to professionals because each style of writing can be used to make a connection with a specific audience. For example, one type of writing technique will work in marketing—ads to be specific—but another will work best for coaching.

Good writers use different writing techniques to fit their purposes for writing.

Types of Writing Styles

1. Narrative writing style

The narrative writing style aims at telling a story. It follows a clear storyline and plot and has at least one character.

Narrative styles are prevalent in works of fiction such as short stories, novels, and screenplays. Narrative writing has a beginning, middle, and end, and often uses literary tools like foreshadowing and flashbacks.

Memoirs and biographies also fall in the narrative writing style because they usually answer the question: “What happened next?”

a man is reading tim cook's biography.
A man is reading Tim Cook’s biography.

The narrative writing technique has to be the most used and most effective because it can be used anywhere if you engineer it to fit the context. For example, it could be used in the workplace for a salesperson, it can be used at a product or service launch, at an annual company gala, an award ceremony, or in a sermon.

Key elements of narrative writing

  • Tells a story or event and has a plot
  • Has characters and dialogue
  • Has a fixed point of view
  • Usually has tension, inspiring event(s), and solutions to disputes or conflicts in the story.
  • Has a setting and theme
  • Uses figurative language and literary devices

Examples of Narrative Writing

  • Short stories
  • Novellas
  • Novels
  • Poetry
  • Biographies
  • Anecdotes
  • Memoirs

2. Descriptive writing style

Descriptive writing and narrative writing are usually each other’s extensions. Sometimes, narrative writing expands upon the descriptive writing style, and in other cases, the descriptive style of writing forms part of the beginning, middle, and end of a narrative style of content.

a metaphorical three line poem
Metaphorical three-line poem.

Descriptive writing’s main function is to describe—it focuses on describing a character, an act, or a place in great detail. It employs literary techniques such as similes, metaphors, allegory, and other devices to engage the audience and can be poetic when the writer goes a bit deeper with their descriptions.

Descriptive writing creates a vivid picture of characters and settings and makes the reader feel like they are experiencing those things. With this type of writing style, the reader gets drawn into the story, and a simple scene is expanded to paint every detail.

Descriptive writing can also be used in the workplace or at a pitching event—it’s a no-brainer! What better way to describe aspects of the product or service that you’re selling?

Key elements of Descriptive Writing

  • Uses literary techniques such as similes, metaphors, allegory, etc. hence it is often poetic.
  • It focuses on describing places, people, events, situations, or locations vividly.
  • Designed to create a clear picture in the mind of the reader.

Examples of descriptive writing:

  • Poetry
  • Journal or diary writing
  • Nature writing
  • Descriptive passages in fiction

3. Persuasive writing style

The main purpose of persuasive writing is to convince or influence the reader to agree with or do what the author wants them to do.

The persuasive writing style needs some solid backing; therefore, the writer has to conduct thorough research and provide strong logical reasoning in their arguments. Persuasive writing also needs to make an emotional connection that sways the reader to adopt the writer’s personal beliefs or point of view.

However, arguments in persuasive writing usually hold the opinions and biases of the author and the justifications and reasons contained therein might be always true.

Just like the other three types of writing styles, persuasive writing fits many contexts. However, it is frequently in the workplace in the form of business proposals, cover letters, brochures, letters of recommendation, company,

In marketing and politics, persuasive writing is used in advertisements and political messages designed to convince consumers to buy your product or voters to vote in favor of the authors.

a pamphlet reminding people to stay at home during the pandemic.
A pamphlet reminding people to stay at home during the pandemic.

Key elements of persuasive writing

  • The author declares their point of view and tries to convince their audience to agree with this point of view.
  • Persuasive writing carries reasons, arguments, and justifications.
  • Often ends with a call-to-action, the reader is asked to do something about the state of affairs.

Examples of persuasive writing:

  • Company brochures
  • Advertisements
  • Review papers or articles (i.e., book reviews, music reviews, movies, restaurants, hotels, etc.)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Opinion and editorial newspaper articles
  • Cover letters

4. Expository writing style

Expository writing serves the purpose of informing and explaining something to the reader. It is a subject-oriented writing style, and authors tend to focus on providing information on a given topic or subject without relying on their personal opinions.

From the last sentence, you can see that, unlike persuasive writing, expository writing does not contain the opinions and biases of the author.

a recipe book with green leaves on it
A recipe book with green leaves on it.

The pieces that employ this type of writing style (i.e., essays, articles, etc.) supply the reader with relevant facts and figures but do not contain any unsupported bias or opinions. Expository type of writing is one of the most common types of writing, especially in textbooks, how-to articles, and other work-related manuals.

This type of style is usually meant to answer questions the reader has such as ‘what,’ ‘why,’ and ‘how.’ Whether you are an expert on the subject matter or not, you are advised to separate your opinion from facts when using an expository writing style.

Key elements of expository writing style

  • Usually explains something in a process
  • Is often equipped with facts and figures
  • Is usually in a logical order and sequence

Examples of expository writing:

  • Employee newsletters
  • Textbook writing
  • How-to guides and other educational articles
  • Recipe articles and books
  • News stories (opinion or editorial pieces not included)
  • Business, technical, or scientific writing

How to Develop Your Writing Style

Every writer has a writing style, even those that don’t think they have one, have one.

A writer’s writing style is their signature way of communicating, no matter how many pieces you write, your writing exhibits a unique writing style.

Think of literary greats Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, or Ernest Hemingway, they all have such unique writing styles. If you read a couple of their publications, you can easily distinguish their writing.

So, how do you end up with such a personalized style and designedly write every piece in such an excitingly unique style?

Here are some tips:

1. Establish your writing style

The first and most important step involves identifying what type of writer you are. You might be strikingly unconventional, casual, formal, or someone who writes a piece with the pace of a rock band performance.

Comb through your old stories, essays, articles, or emails and spot recurring traits—and try to always take notes while at it. If you’re writing something, reread each sentence or paragraph to identify repetitive patterns.

Oftentimes, you get so used to your writing that you can’t spot your tics. To make sure that isn’t the case, ask a friend or colleague to go through your reading and give you feedback on your writing habits.

establish your writing style

You also have to look at things like word choice (are there particular words you use frequently?), use of literary devices, punctuation (whether you like using semicolons, em-dashes, quotation marks, etc.), preferred sentence length, etc.

All these little details make up the way you communicate and are huge building blocks for your writing style.

2. Perfect Your Writing Style

Having discovered a personal writing style, the next step is to shed whatever part of that writing style that’s getting in the way of desirable correctness, substance, and comprehension.

I’m not saying you should conform to the general norm, but your writing style shouldn’t be so extremely unique that it confuses your audience.

For example, big words would seem to provide higher precision and a sense of authority on the subject matter, but they usually weigh down your writing, usually lead to confusion, make you seem amateurish.

perfect your writing style

And… just because your writing style is uniquely yours doesn’t mean that it is good. Your word choice might be making you sound a bit less confident or your frequent use of passive voice is making your content weak and less direct.

Your style needs to be concise and clear. This means getting rid of bad habits such as grammatical mistakes, misspellings, wordy writing, and filler words, among other things.

Getting rid of errors such as these doesn’t only make your writing style unique, but also good!

3. Adapt Your Writing Style

I always say that we write because we love writing, but we publish because of our readers. We write because we love to express ourselves, but there’s the small issue of context.

adapt your writing style

Your writing style represents you, your values, but how you write also has to accommodate your audience and the situation you’re writing for. For example, if you’re writing an academic paper or essay, you have to abandon your casual writing style and be censoriously formal.

Or if you’re writing a memo or report at work, you’re advised to write using short sentences and bullet points where necessary.

Therefore, regardless of whether you’ve found your writing style or not, always the situation you’re in—you can always go back to your old habits when the context allows.

Using Writing Techniques in Business Writing

Business writing is assorted into four main style categories, namely instructional writing (user manuals, business memos, etc.), persuasive writing (press releases, sales emails, proposals, etc.), informational writing (business reports, etc.), and transactional writing (emails, dismissal notices, etc.).

four main style categories of business writing

All the various documents in the corporate world fall within these four broad segments based on their objectives.

Although the objectives of these different documents vary, the core of business writing does not—and here are some tips for business writing.

Effective business writing is results-oriented; therefore, it must be written with a clearly defined audience and purpose in mind. It cannot be left to wander off without a call-to-action or informative element.

Conciseness, relevancy, and comprehension are important requirements of any business writing style.

Things such as excessive wording, jargon, extraneous information, or passive voice cannot be entertained in any type of business writing.

It is worth mentioning that business writing is still like any other form of good writing in the sense that it has to be free of grammar and spelling errors and inaccurate information.

This episode of Crash Course Business Soft Skills discusses business writing.

Conclusion

These are the four different broad categories of writing styles that are generally used: narrative, descriptive, persuasive, and expository writing style. Don’t be worried if some other article is saying there are five or six because there are many sub-types of writing under these categories.

And—sometimes—they are one and the same or adapted to other categories like the ones I listed under types of business writing styles.

Regardless of the numerosity and—somewhat—confusing nature of these categories, a writer must know all these styles to identify their writing style and purpose.

Armed with this knowledge, a writer can improve their writing techniques and write better content for their audience, content the audience wants to read.

About Jessica Majewski

Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories.

She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.