Writing Guide Part 5: Style
After a long (but hopefully fun!) journey, we've arrived at the final part of the Writing Guide. Here we are for Part 5: Style. Just to recap, in Part 1 I discussed Preparation, then I moved on to Focus in Part 2, in Part 3 I discussed Reflection, and in Part 4 the topic covered was Message. In this final segment, I will discuss the topic that you're probably most interested in: the things to focus on in order to forge your unique writing style. You might recall that this topic was touched on briefly in Part 2.
The reason that it's so important to develop your own writing style is that you want someone, within a few minutes of reading your content, to be able to say "Yeah, that's definitely Tim's writing". Remember, there are literally millions and millions of blogs out there on the interwebs, which means that you have to do much more to stand out from the massive crowd. Thankfully, there is something good about that: it means that if you do stand out from the crowd, your reward will be that much larger. So what do you need to focus on to create your unique style of writing?
Remember how in Part 1 I told you to read lots of content from other writers so that you could learn to distinguish between various writing styles? I didn't do that just to annoy you; it was meant to lead up to this. Although I cannot tell you how to create your own style, I can definitely guide you in what you need to consider. It basically boils down to four issues: conversational v non-conversational; short-and-snappy v long-form; expression of personality; and the way you think. Let's break them down one by one.
Conversation vs. non-conversational
Some writers have very fluid and conversational styles of writing. When you read their content it genuinely feels like you are having a conversation with them. They frequently ask questions (and sort of answer them for you) and seem to be "guiding you" step-by-step through their writing. It's a useful tool you can use to develop your style if that is the type of person you are. If, however, you're less conversational in your regular life, you may want to adopt a more monologue-style of writing. The key to this is to closely understand what type of person you are and translate this into the way you write.
Short vs. Long-form
As you've probably noticed from reading my blog posts, I tend to write pretty long-form content. I often write in long paragraphs and my blog posts themselves are generally longer because I need more space to express and explain my thoughts. I generally like to fully develop my thoughts and this is difficult to do with little space. Once again, this is also a reflection of me as a person. You're probably noticing a bit of a pattern here, and there's a pretty simple reason for this: writing is an extension of who you are and the way you think. Know thyself, and you'll know thine writing style. Or something like that.
If, on the other hand, you don't like to embark on elaborate trains-of-thought, you'll probably be more suited to writing shorter paragraphs and blog posts. All in all, your style of writing is a reflection of your personality, which leads me nicely to the next point...
Expression of personality
My favorite part! As I mentioned, the act of writing is very much an extension of who you are and the way you think. To get this part right, it's absolutely crucial that you are highly self-aware. That's something that demands a lot of introspection but isn't really within the scope of this blog post to discuss in depth. I suggest reading books by people like Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown, Tony Robbins, or other motivational speakers/life coaches if you need somewhere to start.
Assuming that you are self-aware and understand yourself well, you now have to harness all the components of your personality and express them through your writing. What does that mean? It means that you need to understand and express your type of humor (witty? cynical? dry?) in your writing. It means that you need to understand that if you're a quieter type of person, your writing might not be as "in-your-face" as it is with a more intense, energetic, and expressive person. Or if you're more emotional, your style of writing will grip readers more than if you like to keep your emotions closer to the heart.
And I could go on and on with further examples; you get the point.
A word of warning though: you need to carefully distinguish between your personality and your interests. Some people might think "my personality? Well, I'm interested in X, Y, and Z so I guess that these things constitute my writing style." Your personality consists of, among other things, your interests but these only dictate the topics you like to write about, not necessarily how you write them. Although the fact that you love Cowboy Bebop, Dragonball Z, and Star Wars might affect how many references to these works you use in your writing, I personally believe that it does not significantly and directly affect how you (stylistically) express yourself in your writing.
Some people are very energetic and passionate, while others are more subdued and contained. Some are very calculated and carefully consider every word they say before speaking; again others are more impulsive and speak their mind very rapidly and easily.
This is also reflected in your writing style; you'll probably use less definitive words if you're the more subdued type (e.g. 'might', 'sometimes') compared to if you're very bold ('always', 'never', 'definitely'). The moral of the story is that you have to understand the deeper "why" and "how" of your personality and harness that in your writing style. Your personality defines you so make sure to use it to define your writing style.
Things you think you think
Last but not least: the way you think. Although I alluded to this earlier, I still think it deserves its own (brief) section. There are so many different types of thinkers out there, but allow me to name just four: conceptual, analytical, structural, and social. Conceptual thinkers see the bigger picture and can be a bit "pie-in-the-sky" with the way they think and behave, which tells me that their writing style might be hard to follow and a bit (too) abstract. Analytical thinkers constantly ask questions and are very rational/objective. They want the facts and the data and are thus unlikely to write in an emotionally engaging manner.
Structural thinkers don't like going off on tangents too much, they just want to get from A-to-B as quickly as possible. Remember what Dana Shultz said? Writers that are structural thinkers are probably constantly yelling to themselves "get to the freakin' point man; nobody has the time!" in their internal dialogue as they write their content. Finally, social thinkers care about people and relationships. They probably write in a more emotionally engaging way (sorry for using that term again, but it's really useful) and strive to write in a way that always emphasizes to the reader why the topic at hand matters on a social, emotional, and personal level.
These brief assessments are by no means definitive truisms. They are simply my brief analyses of different thinking styles, where the goal was to make you understand and think about how your style of thought affects the way you communicate in the written form. It's up to you how you choose to use these insights. Remember, it's perfectly possible that you are a combination of these thinking styles; this simply means that your writing style is going to be that much richer and more dynamic. Your readers are in for a treat then.
Thank you so much for reading this guide and accompanying me on this journey. This was the first time that I ever wrote any type of guide and it was a tough learning curve but fruitful experience for me. I'm sure this guide could use so much improvement, so I'm open to any and all forms of feedback. Please, please, please email me with feedback at chukwuakinyemi[at]hotmail[dot]com and make the subject “Writing Guide” so I can see it easily. You can also send me a note via the contact form.
See you, Space Cowboy.