Are you looking to make a living out of writing? Or perhaps you’re just starting out and want to practice various writing styles until you find the one that feels right for you.
Making a living as a writer means being adaptable and able to write in different styles – whether creatively, for business, or for academic publications.
In this article, I will be describing fourteen different writing styles, what they mean, and how to approach them.
Why Must Writers Adopt Different Writing Styles?
Every writer writes in a certain way; their style a little like a painter’s technique – some of the best authors are recognisable by the tone, style and syntax of their work. But that doesn’t mean all writers are limited to just writing books or resorting to just one writing style.
If, like me, you are both a published author and a freelance writer, being able to adapt your writing style to fit with the publications you’re writing for, the topics you’re writing about, and your target audience, is key to getting plenty of work.
Developing your writing skills is something all writers should aim to do. Even if you only wish to write novels for the rest of your life, being able to adapt your style of writing is a skill that will also strengthen your abilities as an author.
Before we take a look at the fourteen different types of writing that you may need to learn as part of your writing career, let’s start with the one thing you need to know before deciding on the style of writing required.
What Is Your Objective?
You can’t know what style of writing is needed from you unless you know what the objective of the piece is.
There are many different types of writing styles, each one catering to a different target audience and each one needing to do something different.
Before you start writing, ask yourself what your objective is.
Are you looking to:
- Express your personal opinion
- State facts
- Share information
- Review someone else’s work
These are just a few different reasons as to why you may choose to write something, or why a certain piece may have been commissioned to you. Consider what you are trying to achieve before choosing your style.
14 Different Types Of Writing Styles
Let’s go deeper and look at fourteen very different writing styles that meet a variety of objectives.
Narrative Writing Style
Narrative writing is usually found in fictional work – namely novels and short stories – but you can also use a narrative writing style when writing non-fiction.
Even if you are writing a blog post, when using the narrative style it should be structured using the usual story form, which means it must have a beginning, middle and an end.
This style of writing takes readers on a journey, introduces them to a topic, delves into it, and then provides a conclusive ending. The piece should be engaging, creative and interesting to read, and can be written in the first person and include personal experiences.
Each writer has their own writing style, so feel free to use the kinds of words that you feel comfortable with. It can be fun and informal, or more serious and formal.
Things To Remember
Ask yourself whether your piece of work needs to be presented as a story, or whether the reader is only after facts and you can communicate it in a simpler way.
Remember, the narrative style of writing isn’t limited to just fiction writing, it can include essays and articles, but is sometimes too informal for more academic or business publications.
Descriptive writing is full of… description! Often combined with narrative writing, it can be used in fiction and poetry.
For instance, if you were commissioned to write an article about tulips for a scientific magazine you would do well to research all facts on tulips, describe them from a scientific standpoint, and ensure your data is correct.
But if you were writing a magazine article about your day at a tulip farm, or a scene from a book where your main characters are frolicking in a field of tulips, then you might prefer to use descriptive writing.
Descriptive Writing Allows You To Use:
- Literary devices (metaphors, similes, allegories, archetypes etc)
- The five senses/sensory details
- Any tense you prefer
Famous authors use descriptive writing in all their novels. Unlike a screenplay, where there’s minimal need for narration and most of the story is based around dialogue, when writing a book or short story it’s important to add as much description as possible.
Persuasive writing is generally used in sales, marketing and advertising – although you might use it when trying to convince someone to work with you (such as in a query letter to an agent or a cover letter along with a job application).
Convincing people to buy something, do something, or act a certain way through words alone is a very specific skill, which is why top ad agencies pay copywriters very well.
Using A Persuasive Writing Style Means Applying The Following Approach:
- Write about what you know
- Understand your audience
- Hook their attention
- Research well
- Get your facts right
- Be empathetic
- Repeat yourself
- Use keywords
- Ask rhetorical questions (not too many)
Creative writing generally refers to writing fiction – it’s about creating characters, setting, and scenarios and bringing them to life.
Although it’s usually found in a novel or short story, creative writing styles can also be found in articles and even blog posts.
An author’s writing style is unique, and each one has a way of providing vivid descriptions of the human experience through their creatively descriptive writing style. They may choose flowery prose, they may keep it sharp and simple, or their stories may be unique and inventive in the way they are written.
When choosing creative writing, consider the genre and study it well.
Horror writers write very differently from erotic writers. And likewise, those who write for children approach their work very differently to authors who pen literary fiction.
The beauty of creative writing is that there are no rules, so don’t overthink it. Just be creative!
Expository writing is a body of work that is either trying to explain, illuminate, educate or ‘expose’ (which is where the word ‘expository’ comes from).
It may be an investigative piece by a journalist exposing a juicy story for a newspaper or magazine, or it may be a textbook or instruction manual explaining how something works.
Even a blog post such as this one is expository writing because I’m outlining all the different types of writing styles you can adopt and (I hope) you are learning along the way.
The key to writing in an expository style is to keep things clear and succinct.
Expository Writing Is Supported By Using:
- Quotes or examples
- Bullet points
- Clear headers
Subjective writing is all about writing from your own point of view and sharing your opinion.
Subjective writing is generally written in an individual’s own voice and may discuss real life topics, often based on personal experiences.
An example of this is a writer with their own column in a magazine or newspaper, a blogger, a reviewer, a non-fiction author writing a book about a topic they are knowledgeable in, or someone writing their memoirs.
Although non-fiction work should feature accurate data and shouldn’t include made-up facts or figures, with subjective writing the author is allowed to express their opinions freely.
A review writer focuses on the works of others (or products) and gives their subjective opinion on the topic they are covering.
Critics and bloggers make a living from writing reviews which are widely read. In many cases, those reviews can make or break a movie/product/event, depending on the weight that the reviewer’s words carry.
To Be A Reviewer You Need To:
- Be knowledgeable about what you are writing
- Be credible
- Understand your audience
- Be prepared for reactions/backlash
- Back your findings with facts
- And (although your opinions are subjective) it always helps to be fair
Anyone can review anything nowadays, so if you are passionate about something and want to practice your review writing, you can…
- Set up your own blog
- Create videos for social media
- Write reviews on pages such as Netgalley, Goodreads and Amazon
- Review books etc for recognised publications
Poetic writing isn’t simply about writing poetry (although it does include that too). Writing poetically means creating a piece of work with emotional appeal.
That may be a novel, a beautifully-written feature in a magazine, or even a piece of sales copy that really captures the hearts and imagination of your target audience.
When considering whether to write your piece poetically, ask yourself what the objective of the work is.
What Can Be Written Poetically:
- Short stories
- Feature articles
- Advertising copy
What Can’t Be Written Poetically:
- Academic papers
- Business papers
- Expository writing
- Scientific papers
If you are really creative you may attempt to combine more than one style, such as writing a persuasive piece in a poetic fashion… but that, of course, is dependent on what you are selling and who you are selling it to.
Unlike the other styles of writing above which give the writer the opportunity to express themselves creatively, use literary devices, and figurative language; the aim of formal writing is not to entertain or sweep the reader away with a compelling story but to outline facts and be accurate.
You can find formal writing styles used in business publications and textbooks, non-fiction books, manuals and academic papers.
Here are some examples of formal writing styles and how they differ from one another.
Writing something objective means that you are unbiased – something a news journalist should strive to be. It is the very opposite of an opinion piece.
With formal writing it is often important to be subjective because the focus of the work is on the subject and not on the point of view.
An objective writer generally uses the third person (because they are not talking about their own experiences or what they think) and they stick to the facts.
Examples Of Objective Writing May Include:
- News articles
- Press release
- Web copy
- Fact sheet
- Any type of report
- Academic papers
- Scientific, technical and business writing
One exception may be in academic writing. Although the style is normally formal, if the student has been asked to give their review or opinion on something (such as their interpretation of Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy) then the work will remain subjective.
Technical writing is writing communication used in technical fields such as computer hardware and software.
It can also include other technical industries such as:
- Consumer electronics
Technical published works may include articles for technical or internal corporate publications and websites, reviews, consumer-facing literature or product information.
To be a technical writer is really helps to understand both the industry you are writing for/about, as well as the audience. Technical writing is very… well, technical… so it’s vital that all the information you share is factually correct.
Much like technical writing, if you wish to write for scientific journals and publications you really need to understand (and preferably be qualified in) what you are writing about.
Scientific writing can centre around a number of topics; everything from robotics, AI and medicine, to historical scientific discoveries and climate change.
Places That Feature Scientific Writing May Include:
- Scientific publications or websites
- News articles covering scientific discoveries
- Internal communication for the science industry
- Product descriptions or reviews
For many of us, the first piece of writing we were ever asked to produce was an academic paper at school.
Whether that includes an essay, a thesis, or a dissertation – scholarly writing takes a different type of skill from the other types of writing styles above.
Writing academically involves a lot of research.
Whether you set out to write an objective essay (ie if you are writing an essay on a time in history or a geographical location) or a subjective piece (ie your opinion on a piece of art, literature or music) it is still really important that you research and gather all the information required, use quotes and examples to back up your theories, and use citations/a bibliography to explain your findings.
An academic essay should be written in three parts – somewhat like a narrative piece of writing.
How To Structure An Essay
Writing an essay is a little like writing an expository article (such as this one). Once you have collated your research and made notes, split your essay into three parts.
This is where you approach the topic and explain what you are going to do. You can even write ‘In this essay I will…’
2. Main Copy
This is the part of the essay where you address the question. Depending on the length of the essay you may want to split it in to 3-6 parts. Present each argument with clear references, citations and examples (always ensuring you address the initial question).
This is the last part of the essay where you include a shorter summary of what you have discovered, answer the initial question and make your final opinion/conclusion clear.
Writing for business is one of the more lucrative types of freelance writing as the corporate world tends to have bigger budgets for copywriters.
Writing about business can be both objective and subjective, covering a large range of topics from economy and finance, to politics and business development.
This can range from serious pieces in publications such as Time Magazine and the New York Times, to more personal articles on a business blog or website.
Business writers also cater directly to consumers. They may write expository articles and How-To guides.
There is also a large market for self help business books that assist readers with their business acumen or help them gain confidence in the corporate world.
Once again, it’s important when writing for business that you understand both the subject matter and the audience, as each industry varies greatly and the tone of what you write should do too.
6 Things To Consider Before Writing
When you are commissioned to write a piece, there are a number of things you must know before you start.
It goes without saying that the fee and deadline are important, especially if you are a freelancer, but if you are writing as part of your day job, you need to really understand the task you have been set.
Here are 6 things to consider before writing:
Word Count & Objective
How many words is your piece?
I knew, before writing this blog post, that the word count had to fall between 3,100-3,500 words.
When you know what you have to work with, you can think about flow and pacing, and how to set out your article.
If you are writing for online and the object of the piece is to attract traffic, then SEO and the layout are really important.
Alternatively, if your goal is to persuade a brand’s key demographic to buy something and you are only given a small word count, it’s vital that you choose your words carefully and are as succinct as possible. This is especially important in advertising when the designers only have a small amount of space for your words.
Unique Writing Styles
Every writer has a unique writing style, and that may be why you’re commissioned to write a certain piece.
Ask yourself what the client/your boss is looking for and ensure your tone fits not only the topic and style of writing you are aiming for, but that it’s in line with everything else that publication has released.
How you structure a sentence matters.
If you are writing something creative or poetic, you can allow yourself to have long, descriptive prose. If you are writing something technical or expository, then it’s a lot easier for the reader to see each sentence broken down into bullet points, with lots of headers.
As above, the style of writing you have chosen will determine the choice of words you use. Will you get technical, descriptive, creative or simple? That all depends on the…
It is impossible to write effective sales copy, a novel, or even a blog without knowing you who are talking to.
If you are writing a thriller novel, you will use a completely different writing style than if you write romance. Likewise, if you are writing for a scientific journal it will sound very different than if you are writing toy reviews.
Before I began planning this article I knew I was writing for adult writers. But this blog would have looked completely different if I were describing different writing styles to high school students.
Likewise, it’s really important to know where your work is going to be published.
All magazines and newspapers have a house style (even book publishers do). When you are commissioned to write for a publication they will send you a guide as to what your writing should sound like (as well as what they don’t want).
Always read other pieces of work in that publication to get an idea of your audience, their style and the tone required.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The 5 Main Styles Of Writing?
- Narrative – a piece of writing that has a start, beginning and end.
- Descriptive – prose that goes into detail and pulls the reader in.
- Persuasive – reserved for writers trying to sell products and services, or convince readers to do something or join somewhere.
- Expository – a style of writing that exposes something, illuminates, educates or reveals; this can include journalism, How-To guides, non-fiction and blogs such as this one.
- Creative – this normally applies to novels and short stories, although you can have non-fiction work that’s creative, such as essays and memoirs.
How Do I Identify My Writing Style?
An author’s writing style is defined by two things:
- Voice – this is how the piece of writing sounds, what makes it unique to that writer and their point of view.
- Tone – the tone is identified by the vibe the piece of writing conveys. Is it serious, humorous, eerie, or pompous, even?
Get It Write
Getting to write for a living is an honour, but getting it right is no easy feat.
The key to success as an author and freelance writer is to be adaptable, to keep learning and to understand where your strengths lie. My one piece of advice to any writer starting out in this field is to focus on two to three types of writing.
Perhaps you have a background in marketing, so are good at persuasive writing and expository writing, and are also an author. In which case stick to those three.
Or perhaps you come from a technical and scientific background and have written a number of How-To non-fiction books. In which case specialise in the styles you are already familiar with.
However and whatever you choose to write, I hope this article has been a useful reference guide and has inspired you to get your work out there.