Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Different Styles of Writing & Which Is Right for You

Different Styles of Writing Photo

Photo credit: Thomas Fisher (Creative Commons)

Sometimes, I surprise myself. I just finished writing my first book and contributing to another one. Throughout the process, I kept asking myself this question:

“Is this me?”

In the past year, I’ve really honed my writing voice. I’ve defined my unique style and stuck to it.

But the truth is I am still figuring this out as I go. We all are.

There are different styles of writing and different types of writers. Discovering which works best for you and your tribe of readers is essential to becoming a successful writer.

So how do you begin?

The world is full of different writers

Anne Jackson, a blogger and author, writes in a more stream-of-consciousness, conversational style. At her core, she is a poet. Everything she writes flows from that place — from her artist’s heart.

Nick Kristoff, a New York Times columnist and author, writes serious articles and books on human rights issues. His style is powerful and compelling, but more like that of a typical journalist. His words inform, but also move you to act.

Rob Bell, a provocative pastor and author, writes in terse, sometimes incomplete, sentences. He uses lots of white space in his books, allowing the blank parts on the page to speak as loudly as the words.

Finding your own writing style

Your writing is unique. So is mine. Each of us may have multiple styles of writing, depending on the context. The trick is knowing when to use what and not getting pigeon-holed as a certain type of author.

This is the tension in which we all live: creating art as the Muse moves us, while being sensitive to the market for it. Your unique style will help you do this in a way that doesn’t compromise the integrity of your work.

You have to know your audience and writing in a way that is authentically “you,” while still being sensitive to their needs.

How to mess this up

The best way to fail at finding your unique writing style is to not try. To sit back and wait for your voice to come to you. To mimic someone else, or just play it safe.

If you don’t experiment — if you don’t try different styles for different contexts — you will handicap your craft and limit your ability to reach more people. You won’t grow as a writer if you don’t try new things, even new styles.

Take some time to find your own style of writing — that specific way you pen words and craft sentences. Give it its due attention. It’ll be worth it. Your readers will thank you.

If you need help, check out this article I wrote: 10 Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice

Whatever you do, don’t just sit on this. The biggest way to mess this up is to ignore it, to refuse to find a style of your very own and use it. That’s the last thing you should do.

By the way, my book, WRECKED, is now available for pre-order on Barnes and Noble for 48% off. Not sure how long that will last, but it will pretty much never be at the price again. Tell your friends.

What style of writing do you use? What style do you love to read? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Thomas Fisher (Creative Commons)

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://drtombibey.wordpress.com Dr. Tom Bibey

    Heck, I created my own genre; physician bluegrass fiction. I figured you couldn’t get any more unique than that.

    drtombibey.wordpress.com

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Wow!

  • http://ceylanthewriter.wordpress.com ceylanthewriter

    Everyone should try a different style and find out what works for him or her. Maybe someone could take a smattering of qualites of all styles and write! That’s what is so fantastic about this art!

    Keep on writing!

    Ceylan

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       well said, Ceylan. thanks!

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

    Thanks, Tom and Ceylan, for the feedback!

  • Kelly

    Jeff,
    I like your style and all the information available here. I can’t even remember how I found my way here, but I keep finding new informative links and I have been here for some time. I am an author who is trying to market my books on the net.  Thank you for sharing all you’ve learned.

    Kelly Marshall
    author of The Love Songs Murders

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      my pleasure, Kelly. thanks for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/SeanPlatt Sean Platt

    People have different ways of speaking, just like they have different ways of writing. The key is in capturing your most natural voice. That’s the one people want to read! Plus, it’s the one that’s always most effective. Readers know when you’re not writing in your most natural voice. 

    Thanks for the shout out, Jeff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       you’re welcome, dude. great piece. happy to link to it.

  • Risto Uuk

    What other writing styles are there? 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       innumerable

  • http://twitter.com/mma323 Masafumi Matsumoto

    I have an (academic) philosophy background and this influences my writing style. I strive to write clearly and to make sure that I tell my reasons behind what I say if that’s needed. 

    I write in English, but I’m not a native speaker of English. I was born and raised in Japan, though I spend a few years in Australia studying at university.

    I like the fact that I can’t rely on rhetoric to decorate what I write, because I simply don’t have rhetorical skills that one could learn and develop like other linguistic intuitions of a native speaker of a given language. This is a great advantage one can have when writing in a foreign language; the lack of rhetorical skills forces me to write in a… non-rhetorical way. 

    Writing in a foreign language would be an interesting and fruitful exercise for writers who speak more than one language as a non-native speaker even if they have no intention of writing in other languages. Haruki Murakami used to do this as far as I’m concerned. He’d write in English first and translate what he wrote into Japanese. Or perhaps write a Japanese version with the help of the original version? Something like that. Again, this process will force you to simplify what you write unless of course you are a complete bilingual.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       good idea, Masafumi!

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    Can’t wait for the new book Jeff! Loved the other two and the manifesto

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, Kimanzi!

  • http://www.love-laugh-learn.com Deanna

    My day job has become filled with PR, article and business copy writing, so my own writing style feels somewhat disjointed and less confident. On the flip side, I’m writing so much that my writing can’t help but to improve in other ways. 

    Personally, I love the writing of  Sue Monk Kidd, Maya Angelou, CS Lewis and bloggers like Emily Freeman. Their words inspire me to see the things around me with different eyes and write about them in new ways. 

    Not sure what my style will ever really look like (and I want it to be all mine) but I am guessing that it will be better because of them and their influence.  :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Love those writers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ryan-Blanck/1298623305 Ryan Blanck

    Like you say, I have different styles for different occasions.  I found, ironically enough, that by reading and studying great writers that I admire, and by mimicking their styles at first, I have grown into my own style.  I’m not trying to be the next ______, but rather allowing them to influence how I write what I want to write.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       I agree with your approach, Ryan. Good writers read.

  • http://www.youngaspiringwriter.blogspot.com/ Chihuahua Zero

    I find that I usually prefer to write in smaller paragraphs. If a paragraph gets longer than four or five lines when it isn’t supposed to be exposition or a part of a monologue, I find myself wanting to split it. Also, I aim for varied sentence structure.

    On the other hand, I find myself being repetitive at times.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Love small paragraphs.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I know that I prefer white space and a more compact style as I read. I tend to write that way but I’ve stopped being afraid of venturing away from that style (well, if not fearless, less fearful).

    I think I overwrote in my first novel, “Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” (not often, but more than I now prefer). I am using more concise language in my second novel. I had lots of dialogue in novel #1 but I think the 2nd will have more.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Cool, Tom. Like Hemingway?

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

         Which one-Mariel or Margaux?

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

          Ernest. :)

  • MM

    Ah, voice. Yes, that’s a tough one for sure. According to the authors of “Self Editing For Fiction Writers, How to Edit Yourself into Print,” nobody can help you find your voice but you. And the big thing they caution is to not use a seasoned author’s voice–i.e. no cheating! Dave King and Rennie Brown, authors of the above-mentioned book state that voice has to be developed over time. I personally like a more flowing style as opposed to the more modern, choppy, fragmented-sentence style of writing. That’s just me, but I’ve been guilty of trying to imitate seasoned authors too (L.M. Montgomery–the Anne of Green Gables series). At any rate, voice is a big snafu for me right now–along with a host of other snafus that I won’t bore anyone with!

  • http://www.creativehogg.com/ Josh Hogg

    I’ve always loved Cormac McCarthy’s style of writing, from a reader’s perspective. But it is definitely not my style for voice. I like short, concise sentences that flow into one another. Its a welcoming style for myself as I learn the ropes of writing; as well as new readers when they first see my work. Of course, this is still changing as I go!

  • http://roolily.wordpress.com Ruth LeFaive

    Here here!  In the interest of “writing like I talk” (which is how one Los Angeles based writing instructor begins coaching students to develop voice — it’s the first step of many) I only removed one of my “Yays” from yesterday’s blog post.  :)  Thanks, Jeff!

  • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

    Great post. I have been doing some fiction work as well as non-fiction; what advice would you have for someone writing in different genres? Other than obviously to keep writing :) 

  • Pilar Arsenec

    I love everything you write. Thank you.

  • http://riveradouthit.wordpress.com/ Rivera

    I enjoy reading different styles, though AnnVoskamp’s poetic, raw edge intrigues me.  I find that I’m more straight forward but easily mimic the author I’m currently reading.  Frustrating! Realizing there’s a difference between style and voice is helpful.  My style my vary, but my voice is the ME that surfaces in my writing.  I find my readers love to connect with me, and transparency helps.  Thank you for this insightful post.

  • http://www.nginaotiende.blogspot.com Ngina Otiende

    Great post Jeff,
    I love this statement in particular 

    “You have to know your audience and write in a way that is authentically “you,” while still being sensitive to their needs”

    It’s not always easy, adjusting my style to suit my audience AND still retain my style (voice).

    But that is really the hallmark of powerful writing.

    Am glad I found this powerful nugget here today.

    Bless you! 

  • http://KatieAx.blogspot.com/ Katie Axelson

    Right now I’m going through a spurt where everything I write either sounds
    like a blog post or my ghostwriting client (ok, or my client’s blog). It’s
    frustrating but it’s also liberating to realize that this is part of the process
    of developing my own voice. Lately most of my projects have been blogging and ghostwriting, no wonder that’s what I
    sound like, today. Tomorrow I get to reinvent myself and explore new territory, ghostwrite for someone else, or write something other than a blog.

    Katie

  • http://twitter.com/RoweMatthew Matthew Rowe

    I’ve never had trouble finding my voice. I fell into it straight away. Sometimes I have trouble keeping it up in my blog because I’m not always in the mood to blog. That’s what I find hard. 

  • Anonymous

    I think I write as I speak.  In the case of my children’s book, The Duffy Chronicles, I wrote as Duffy the dog.  Conversational works for me.  Good post

  • http://www.frymonkeys.com Alan Kay

    Great post!  I ‘teach’ leadership and collaboration to middle managers. There are different leadership styles too. Compare Steve Jobs to Richard Branson and Mother Teresa – all completely different! Plus, leaders need more than one style. The one-style leader usually stands out during a specific period, say a crisis, but either doesn’t last too long, or stays on a narrow path. Hence, the need for situational leadership.  

    I like your advice on developing your unique writing style advice – find it by experimenting. I found mine by being me and by not writing in a style that would be approved by others. I recently tried a totally different style based on a new audience – the outcomes surprised me. I’m now going to try a couple of other styles.

  • http://itsakoolife.wordpress.com/ rebecca koo

    This really makes me think – I can tell all of this is going to rattle in me in the days to come. How is “voice” different than “style”? I will have to try experimenting, but in some ways I think I am so new I am always sort of experimenting. I would say my style is soul-ful, sometimes raw and always honest. Probably more on the poetic side. 

    As far as reading goes, I like to read funny, witty stuff that is honest about life and human experience, but wit only takes me so far and then I need depth of soul to keep me satisfied. I devoured The Help. A message about the value of people is compelling to me. And of course I like your writing about writing. Honest while helpful and bite-sized. 

    • Pat Wooldridge

      Rebecca, we seem to have similar tastes in reading. I, too, devoured The Help—both book and movie—and continue to be motivated by Mary J. Blige’s song, The Living Proof.  Doesn’t it apply to so many parts of life!

      Jeff’s posts and The Living Proof go hand in hand, for me. How about you?

      • http://itsakoolife.wordpress.com/ rebecca koo

        Nice! I have to confess, I have not seen the movie yet and I am totally out-of-it when it comes to knowing music song titles. If you could sing me the tune – oh yeah, that won’t work here, will it? :) But now that you mention it I will have to look it up on playlist and listen! I will let you know what I think! Thanks, Pat!

  • http://www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com Russell V J Ward

     Thanks Jeff. I’ve been thinking a lot about my writing style recently. Your advice to experiment is one I’ve adopted over the past six months and I’ve found it incredibly helpful.

    Using your blog to play around with writing styles is a sure-fire way to identify what works best for you – and the particular style that also sits well with your readers. You’ll be able to tell quickly enough which ones don’t work!

  • http://granbee.wordpress.com/ Rose Byrd

    Jeff, this is exactly what I have been doing with using different styles, different “voices” for  Twitter micropoetry, my blog posts, and thoughtful commentary on the writing of others.  Also, my style in composing PR announcements and press releases is different, as well.  I am beginning to explore how these styles can become the possession of characters in a novel I have in mind starting about a year from now, when I done all I can with my current adult fairytale series w/illustrations.  Wonderful post here to really make us think about how we truly want to read as writers–and who our desired audiences are.  This is why I get such a wide variety of tweets sent to my phone.  It is wonderful study material!

  • Anonymous

    I think story (interesting reading),  teaching information (value to audience), and comedy (unexpected) are a great combo.  As for me I like writing conversational.  Problem is the combo of all three turns out so much content I enjoy it’s hard to edit and keep it short.  I’ll learn with practice.

  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    My

  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    My writing voice is something that I’ve been experimenting with lately. I want my blog content to be authentic and not cliche or formulaic.

  • http://ains-leigh.blogspot.com/ ainsleigh

    I’m definitely feeling the challenge of finding my voice. I feel myself going in so many directions. It’s all one giant experiment at the moment. 

  • Maggie S.

    Both Jane Austen and Jan Karon start speaking for me in my head.  No other authors do.  I am nothing like either one.  I am wordy and sarcastic and hard edged.

  • surekha surekha

    its really great i would definitely change my style of writing.
    i think i can write even more beautifully

  • Tarisai Mzwimbi

    I think I will perfect the style I already have. I like to put a thought together in a way that seems as though the reader is being spoken to rather than just passively trailing through the page or screen.

  • Anne Marie Miller

    I was drawn back to this because someone linked through to my blog through this. Thank you for the reminder. It’s helpful as I pen this new gig.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Hah! Love it. Interesting, eh?

  • C.Y.G

    I liked the fact that you wrote “How to Mess This Up” as a means to motivate the reader to grab the nearest pencil and paper to write! Great blog!

  • pari

    This could really be of great help to kickstart writing professionally… Coz till the date my writing was personally being appreciated but i was a little apprehensive about public reaction…
    Thnx for the advise!!