Designers and style-of-the-moment enthusiasts, alike, ramp-up their runways and closets as the seasons turn and sometimes in between. Do you adjust and tweak your writing style on a regular basis?
If you don’t, you should.
OK, I’ll admit that changing or adding a new writing style to your repertoire in concert with fickle US fashion trends probably isn’t a great idea. Even so, you must constantly work toward improving all aspects of your writing craft to grow in your niche as a freelance writer and enjoy continued growth and recognition in the industry.
Of the many skills and elements that a successful writer must hone and perfect, style stands out as one of the most important. Throughout my career, I’ve worked hard to cultivate a writing style that I can easily tweak and transform to fit perfectly with a broad variety of client needs and assignments.
I suppose you could count each of these as unique styles in my toolbox – a tool for the client needing a complex medical white paper or journal article, a tool for the news editor who asks me to research and interview experts for a breaking story, a tool for the client who requires a simple blog post that speaks in a casual, almost colloquial, tone to readers, and every client in between.
To stay on top of the game, you’ll need to add your own brand of style to your writing toolbox.
Showing versus Telling
Use people as examples in your writing to show your readers the point, rather than telling it to them lecture-style.
Rather than merely stating that Pete Cashmore* has developed a crush on me, via our accidental meetings on the various social networking platforms, I’ll use words to show you in a much more interesting way:
His “Samantha, everyday I’m shufflin” response to my “Stop! Hatin’s bad!” lyrical reference while I joked with my friend, Josh Carlson, on Google+, stopped me short. Who was this fresh kid with the Cheshire-cat grin that finished my lyrical phrase so perfectly? “Shuffle on by, baby boy,” I snarked, having no idea that everyone breathlessly hung on this kid’s every word. I told Cashmore that I’d refrain from un-circling him because he surprised me and made me laugh by finishing those lyrics unexpectedly, but that he needed to step back and make nice or I’d have to un-circle him for sure.
His “accidental” appearance on other social networking platforms, during my regular engagement times, tells the rest of the story. Pete Cashmore can’t get enough of me. Blim blam.
Alas, I’ve put off breaking the poor child’s heart. I don’t think he realizes that I’m married to a dragonslayer with blue eyes, big as saucers, and muscles like Russell Crowe’s Gladiator.
Are you not entertained?
I’ll bet it held your interest much better than just reading a passively written, third person account of the events leading up to Pete’s crush.
The greatest thing in style is to have command of metaphor. ~Aristotle
Metaphors create powerful pictures for readers by connecting an idea or image in your writing to something unexpected and fresh. Instead of writing that your new job is boring and uninspiring, say that this, “I liken my new job is a real choke sandwich – all peanut butter and no jelly.” Rather than describing your grandmother as a “wonderful and strong woman”, you can describe her far more powerfully by saying, “women like her are rose-petal adorned bulldozers”.
You can express a metaphor directly or indirectly.
Direct comparison metaphor
“His fat stubby fingers were sausages just waiting to get sliced in the machine.”
“Social media is, if not a distinct entity, a huge, powerful authority in the realm of business, despite its flaws.”
Direct metaphors provide clear, direct comparisons.
Indirect comparison metaphor
“…another deafening whistle as the wind races through the huge river gorge and another roar of sound rushes over the watery jungle.
Indirect metaphors provide an implied comparison.
It’s critical that you make certain to use original metaphors that clearly convey your intent. Unclear, confusing metaphors appear sophomoric and contrived.
“Rampant inner-city illiteracy is a thorn in the city’s image.”
This poorly crafted metaphor gives a confusing, unclear figure of speech. Illiteracy may represent a thorn in the city’s side, but certainly not a thorn in its image.
Sparkly Pearls of Style Wisdom
Don’t overuse people and the “slices of life” they bring to your writing as this will disrupt flow and hinder a professional development of the final piece. Instead, occasionally work them into your composition to add panache and personality.
Carefully choose any metaphors you weave into your writing, so that they don’t sound awkward or out of place. If you can’t come up with a fitting metaphor that adds to your message, leave it out.
*As far as I know, Pete Cashmore doesn’t really have a crush on me, but I think he has one on The Prof.
Photo credits: businessoffashiondotcom, thehunkiesdotcom, internationalpeaceandconflictdotcom