American Puritanism was one of the dominant forces in American life for the 17th and early 18th centuries. The Puritan writing style was epitomized in writers such as William Bradford, Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor. Puritans had a strict set of religious and moral principles that were frequently the focal point of their writings.
Church Sermon Style
Many Puritan writings of the 17th and 18th century were transcripts of sermons, and those that weren't were written in a style very similar to that of a preacher giving a sermon. Puritan writers considered it their mission to glorify God in their writing and reveal the decay of godliness occurring around them.
Puritan writers wrote to find spiritual meaning in the events of their lives and their relationship with God. Their writing style, therefore, often tends toward the introspective and spiritual as they engage in deep self-searching and metaphysical reasoning. A tenet of Puritanism was that an individual must search out and identify their own sins before they can be absolved of them. Puritan writing often consists of this type of self-analysis.
Plain Prose Style
Puritan writings are characterized by a simplicity of form, avoiding complex syntax and verbiage in favor of direct, clear speech. Bradford believed that a plain prose style was essential to preserve the simple truths at the heart of his writing.
Focus on History
Puritan writing focused heavily on questions of historical fact. A major Puritan tenet was the concept of decay -- that in the historical past, people had a stronger connection to God and religion, a connection that has been weakening over time with modern temptations. The function of many Puritan writings was to awaken people to the severity of this historical change and motivate them to change.
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