Writing is a craft. Skilled writers incorporate stylistic techniques into their writing for rhetorical effect. In other words, stylistic techniques enhance a piece of writing’s aesthetic, emotional or intellectual appeal. Certainly, the content of a text is important, but a writer who can organize his ideas in a unique and provocative way can increase his writing’s allure.
Varied Sentence Structure
English allows for four main sentence constructions: simple, compound, complex and compound-complex, and skilled writers use all of these. Using too many simple sentences in a row sounds monotonous. A simple sentence consists of one subject and one verb, as in “She laughed.” The other sentence constructions incorporate more subject-verb patterns.
No matter the genre, whether poetry or essay writing, skilled writers aim for conciseness. Conciseness in writing means eliminating any unnecessary words. Writing all sentences in active voice, where the subject precedes the object, helps achieve this goal. Paring down prepositional phrases, such as “with regard to,” which writers can replace with the briefer “regarding,” tightens writing.
Transitional phrases include “however,” “in addition” and “on the other hand.” These phrases link ideas in sentences to create coherence between them. Like signposts, they guide readers along from one idea to another. Without transitional phrases, readers struggle to make connections between ideas and the writing sounds choppy.
Writers can use their imaginations to express ideas through figurative devices. Figurative devices, such as metaphor, simile, irony and hyperbole, make unusual comparisons for dramatic effect. For example, a political advertisement that reads “The current leader is gouging you with taxes” utilizes both metaphor -- unusual comparison -- and hyperbole -- exaggeration -- by comparing taxation to excessive digging.
Poetic devices create interesting effects for readers by playing on the sound patterns of words. Alliteration, the repetition of the first letters of words, can create a soothing effect, as in “softly slumbered,” or a harsh one, as in “the clattering and clanking of the cogs.” Children’s literature writers often use onomatopoeia, words that sound like the noises they make, such as “whoosh” or “buzz.”
Unusual Stylistic Techniques
For creative writers, the sky’s the limit in terms of stylistic techniques. Fiction writers can even use sentence fragments, technically grammatical erroneous, for dramatic effect: “No. It couldn’t be. No way.” Double voice, a technique that involves interspersing dialogues or thoughts of two different people, is also appropriate for fictional writing: "He watched them take her away, all the time sinking inside," "It shouldn’t have been this way. I shouldn’t have let her do it," and "But all he could do was watch."
- “Simon & Schuster Handbook for Writers;” Lynn Quitman Troyka; 2002
- Harvard University: Literary Terms and Definitions
- Mrs. Juriaan’s Class Notes: Stylistic Writing
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