When it comes to assessing our writing, we tend to worry about whether we are good or not and forget to work out our natural style. In fact, it is our style that determines whether anyone else thinks we are good writers.

Of course there are the requirements of decent grammar and spelling but even these factors can be set aside if your style is your own and it gets your message across.

How to discover your styleformal or informal

If you don’t know what your style is the best way to figure it out style is to do a lot of writing, and the best way to get a lot of writing done quickly is by setting yourself short writing exercises or writing blog posts.

A short writing exercise could include answers to a question or discussion topic. You can choose to answer a question about your business or about a topic you know a lot about or simply describe what you did on Saturday morning. You can also write a short opinion piece about something that catches your attention in the news or a television show you watch. You don’t need to write a lot, maybe a few paragraphs.

If you write regularly already, simply pick a selection of things you have written and look at them. Whatever you choose, make sure you recognise the writing tone as being typical for you. Look for any preferences for particular words or phrases and any tendencies towards jargon, slang or colloquialisms. Listen for the general tone – if you read it out loud, would it sound as if you were speaking naturally or does it sound as if you are reading something from a book?

Formal style

If your style is formal, it is likely to be grammatically correct, include a wide range of vocabulary and not include a lot of contractions (it’s, hadn’t, wasn’t, couldn’t).

Benefits of a formal style: If your style is formal and you are happy with it that way, keep it. When it comes to writing a signature book, having a more formal style will stand you in good stead because it confers an even greater sense of authority on your words. Most bestselling books are written in a formal style.

How to loosen up a formal style: If you want to loosen up your style and be a bit more chatty (perhaps for your blog posts) use more contractions, take out any formal jargon and use more everyday words and sentence constructions.

Informal style

An informal style is characterised by being more chatty, less concerned with grammar and having more slang or colloquial words i.e. ‘busted’ instead of ‘caught out’.

Benefits of an informal style: It can feel more personal and warmer to read; a bit like having a talk with a friend. It is easier to build a relationship with you reader when you write with a more informal style, so it is ideal if you are using your book for marketing purposes. An informal style can be great for emails and blog posts, for example.

How to tighten up an informal style: However great an informal style might be for casual communications it can sometimes seem a bit low-brow and might not bring the same sense of authority as a formal style. For this reason, if you are keen to write a more serious book, you might want to be a bit less informal. You can easily make your writing more authoritative by using a wider vocabulary, less colloquial language and just being less chatty.

Be yourself

There is no right or wrong style; different styles suit different writers and different types of writing. Just because you are formal in your book doesn’t mean you have to be formal in your emails and blogs; you can choose.

Rather than getting bogged down in ‘good’ or ‘bad’ think in terms of your style. Be yourself – you don’t have to write in a certain way to be successful, your voice and your message are what count. In fact, the more relaxed you feel about writing, the more likely you are to discover your writing style and come across to your readers as authentic and authoritative.

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Deborah Taylor
Deborah Taylor

Hi, I'm Deborah Taylor and I'm a publishing consultant and book-writing mentor. I work with established business owners who want to share their message by writing a book but are struggling to get started (or finished). I help them write, publish and launch a stand-out, attention-grabbing book that will raise their profile, reach more of their ideal clients and grow their business. I am a trained editor with over 15 years' publishing experience with major blue-chip UK publishing companies such as Hodder & Stoughton, BBC Books, Cassell and Pearson. I have produced books on every subject under the sun and with professinals and experts from a wide range of professions, from chefs and gardeners to life coaches and career consultants. I would love to help you write a book you love and that will raise your profile, attract new clients and bring you exciting new business opportunities.