What writing style should you useyour non-fiction book?
All of them.
In this post I explain:
- the difference between voice and writing style
- What are the 4 common writing styles?
- What does everyone work for
- how to choose a main style for your book
- when and how to use them in your writing process
Most importantly, I show you how to use each style to capture your readers' attention and get your audience talking about your book.
The difference between voice and writing style.
Authors connect with their readers through a combination ofVoiceand writing style.
They areVoiceIt's about how you speak and think. It's all about the words you use and the patterns in your writing.
Your voice is unique to you.
His writing style is about how he approaches the reader at a given moment:
- persuasive writing persuades the reader
- explanatory writing explains things to the reader
- Narrative writing tells a story to the reader
- Descriptive writing describes things for the reader
But that's not the whole picture.
Sometimes the best way to explain something is to tell a story that illustrates your point.
And sometimes the best way to persuade your readers is to explain the facts.
Because of this, non-fiction books often use all 4 writing styles together.
As you read through the 4 different writing styles below, remember that picking just one doesn't matter.
It is to understand when and how each of them is used to giveyour readersthe greatest value and make your book the best it can be.
The 4 main types of writing styles
1. Persuasive writing style
Let's say you wanted to write a book about the value of allowing employees to bring their dogs to work.
One way to convince executives of this idea is to use a persuasive writing style.
Here is an example:
You would never believe how much a few dogs in the office can transform an entire organization. Not until you see it. Sure, sick days are drastically reduced. And yes, the billing drops to almost zero. But the true benefits of a dog-friendly business are much harder to measure and run much deeper.
Like most examples of persuasive writing, this passage isaddresses the reader directly.
It mentions some advantages, but offers no concrete data. There are no numbers or percentages. In fact, this suggests that the best benefits are difficult to measure.
This writing style is good for emotionally engaging the reader, especially when you're writing about intangible things.
It also works well for short sections of introductory text followed by specific facts.
2. Narrative writing style
people love stories. In fact, we're programmed to pay attention to them.
That's why they work so well as hooks, even in non-fiction books.
It's very easy to bore a reader with:
- separate fact lists
- more explanation than you need
- Examples unrelated to them
Stories bridge these gaps. You can:
- connect facts
- teach without explaining
- Help readers see themselves in your book
Isnarrative writing styleIt is excellent at capturing the reader's attention:
In 2007 I met the dog that would save my life.
Even if your book isn't filled with examples of narrative writing from start to finish, a few stories will go a long way in keeping your readers engaged.
3. Descriptive writing style
A descriptive writing style goes one step further.
People often associate descriptive writing with flowery, poetic sentences, but strong descriptive writing is anything but.
In 2007 I met the dog that would save my life, but you would never have guessed it by looking at him. It was the ugliest dog I had ever seen in my life. Imagine forming a tiny hairless gargoyle; pull the eyes out to the middle of the head; and then break his face. Whatever looks in your head, imagine it about 6 times uglier and you're pretty close. But for every ounce of cuteness this dog lacked, he had a lot of heart.
Descriptionit looks a lot like salt. Small things have a big impact.
Use descriptive writing to set the scene and add some spice to your writing, but be careful not to overdo it.
It's especially good for adding humor or leaving specific examples in the minds of readers.
4. Expositive writing style
Compared to the other styles of writing, one might expect explanatory writing to be limited to academic journals and instruction manuals, but that's not true at all.
Expository writing follows persuasive and narrative writing with hard facts, adding logical power to your stories and examples.
You can captivate your reader with a story and then provide a bulleted list of the most important things you learned from the experience.
Or you can start a chapter with an emotional appeal and continue with 7 measurable stats to back your point.
Here is an example of explanatory writing:
When you're ready to draft your dog-friendly policy, start surveying your employees. Make sure no one has dog allergies or phobias. If you find someone on your team has an aversion to dogs, try to address the issue by separating dog-friendly areas of your workplace from other dog-free zones.
The expository style is a direct and effective way to convey important information or direction to your reader.
Not usually the best hook, but there are exceptions to every rule.
A shocking statistic, for example, can grab a reader's attention just as easily as any story.
What primary writing style best suits you and your book?
Most non-fiction books use all of these styles in combination.
For example, in a single chapter you could:
- Captivate your reader with a story (narrative)
- add sensory details to make the story memorable (descriptive)
- Follow-up with an emotional appeal (convincing)
- List 4 bulleted statistics that support your argument (explanation)
- Humanize these stats with another story (narrative)
- End the chapter with steps readers can take (explanation)
That is why it is important to know the 4 writing styles.
But how often you use each method depends on a combination of 2 things:
- what you feel most comfortable with
- what your book needs to effectively solve your reader's problem
Start with the one that is easiest for you to write.
It is highly unlikely that a new writer would be that familiar with all 4 different writing styles.
If you've read a lot of academic or technical writing, you're probably more comfortable with an explanatory style. This will feel the most familiar.
If you've read a lot of creative writing, you may feel more comfortable working in a narrative style.
When writing your first draft, the most important thing you can do is write everything down.
Your main style preference should be the one that is most comfortable for you.
Don't get lost in the details of your style choice. JustWrite your first draftin any way that will help you get all your ideas onto the page.
start with asolid outlinejwriting planSo you know what you want to convey to your readers, but frame those ideas in a way that works best for you.
Then edit so your writing is clear and persuasive.
Each chapter should begin with a hook that draws the reader's attention.
This can be an intriguing story or a surprising fact or statistic. It can be an unexpected idea that makes the reader want to know more.
There are NO rules as to what writing style is the best way to do this.
The same book could easily use all 4 styles as hooks in 4 consecutive chapters. Or you could use the same style every time.
Abre Christopher McDougallsborn to runto almost every page and you find yourself in the middle of a story.
It could be a story about what you investigated, or it could be a story about the investigation itself. In any case, the narrative style is used almost exclusively.
This is quite common among investigative reporters and books based on investigative reporting.
A how-to book, on the other hand, relies heavily on explanatory writing to provide step-by-step instructions.
If your book really breaks with the traditional mindset, you may need a combination of narrative, persuasive, and explanatory writing to convince readers that their old mindset is wrong.
- Narrative writing provides concrete examples of your ideas in action.
- Compelling writing asks provocative questions that lead your readers down a new path.
- This is followed by writing explanations with facts, statistics and instructions on how to implement your innovative solutions.
Once you have all of your ideas in one complete draft, you're good to goEdit your own workand decide what works and what doesn't.
You can add a short story to illustrate a point. Or you may decide that a chapter needs further explanation to help readers find a solution to their own situation.
Consider each of the 4 styles and decide what each section needs to best serve and interest the reader.
A note on memories
Memoirs naturally tend toward narrative and descriptive styles, but that doesn't mean those are the only styles they need.
Even in the middle of a story, you may want to convince your readers of certain key truths. Or maybe you need to explain how something works so they understand what your team faced when making an important decision.
There isn't always a clear boundary between these categories, and there are no hard and fast rules for how and when to use them.
In fact, this is the only rule when it comes to writing styles:
You should never feel constrained by writing styles, and they should never limit you or your book.
The ONLY purpose of these different writing styles is to help you think more deeply about how to communicate with your readers to solve their problem.
What are the 4 types of writing styles? ›
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There are four purposes writers use for writing. When someone communicates ideas in writing, they usually do so to express themselves, inform their reader, to persuade a reader or to create a literary work.What are the 4 elements of writing? ›
- Editing and revising.
- Descriptive writing style. Descriptive writing immerses the reader into a story by creating a vivid picture of characters, settings and events in their mind. ...
- Narrative writing style. ...
- Persuasive writing style. ...
- Expository writing style.
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How writing develops. There are four stages that kids go through when learning to write: preliterate, emergent, transitional, and fluent.What is step 4 of the writing process? ›
Step 4: Revising
Rearrange words, sentences, or paragraphs into a clear and logical order.
Expository Writing – This is the most common type of writing. This blog post is an example of expository writing, as I'm explaining a concept and providing information. However, expository writing often doesn't include the author's opinions.What are the 5 styles of writing? ›
Whilst there are many reasons to get the notepad or laptop out. there are only five main kinds of writing: expository, descriptive, persuasive, narrative, and journal or letter writing. Each writing genre has its own unique purpose and requires different skills.
What are the main factors of writing? ›
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- Word choice.
- Sentence structure.
- Sensory details.
- Figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
- Sound devices such as alliteration and onomatopoeia.
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We often call these prewriting strategies “brainstorming techniques.” Five useful strategies are listing, clustering, freewriting, looping, and asking the six journalists' questions. These strategies help you with both your invention and organization of ideas, and they can aid you in developing topics for your writing.What are the 7 styles of writing? ›
- Narrative. Narrative essays are traditionally intended to tell a story based on the writer's real-life experiences. ...
- Descriptive. Descriptive essays essentially paint a picture of something. ...
- Expository. ...
- Persuasive. ...
- Compare and contrast. ...
- Reflective. ...
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It is used primarily in the workplace setting to communicate important information in a clear, concise manner. Persuasive, argumentative, and instructional writing are all similar to professional writing. The goals of these types of writings are similar.What are the 5 essentials of writing? ›
There is no formula or program for writing well. However, there are certain qualities that most examples of good writing share. The following is a brief description of five qualities of good writing: focus, development, unity, coherence, and correctness.