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K12 LibreTexts

7.1: Introduction

  • Page ID
  • Learning Objectives

    • Distinguish between informal style and academic style
    • Learn how to write clearly
    • Diagnose and fix vague sentences
    • Distinguish between denotative and connotative meanings
    • Learn how to avoid gender bias
    • Identify characters and actions in sentences
    • Apply the old-before-new and short-to-long principles of style
    • Learn when to use and not to use minimalizations and passive voice in sentences
    • Learn how to write coherent and concise sentences
    • Learn how to emphasize sentence elements

    Definition of Tone and Style

    Tone refers to the type of language writers use to address their audience. When writing an email to a friend, for example, you may choose to use an informal or colloquial tone, whereas an essay for an English class requires an academic tone. Compare the two examples below:

    Example 1: The city should just start paying for our rides to school so we can use the bus money for other stuff. If this happens, people will actually get to value buses more and stuff.

    Example 2: If the city gave students free access to public transportation, riding to school for free would not only save students and their parents money, but it would also promote the use of public transportation.

    While both sentences above convey the same idea, example 1 illustrates an informal tone or register, while example 2 displays an academic tone. Therefore, if you are writing an essay arguing for public transportation, example 2 would be appropriate. Example 1 should be used when an informal tone is accepted, such as in an email, a message to a friend, or a dialogue between two friends in a story.

    Style, on the other hand, involves more than just formality and informality. It concerns how clearly we write. Some writers think that a good writing style equals wordy and complicated sentences, but that can make it difficult for readers to grasp the idea of a text. Essays should be well written and free of errors, but first they should be clear and logical.

    Here are a few useful guidelines to help develop a good writing style:

    • Avoid using abstract and complex terms, since they tend to confuse rather than impress readers.
    • Accept that your writing will always seem clearer to yourself than to others; therefore, do not hesitate to get another reader's opinion.
    • Keep your audience in mind while writing.
    • Know the expectations of the academic English writing style.
    • Understand how readers decode the information they read.

    Style also involves word choice, coherence, conciseness, and correctness. This chapter contains sections about each of these elements of style.

    Review Questions

    Answer question 1-2 . Then, for questions 3-5, determine whether the tone/style of the sentences below is appropriate or inappropriate for an argumentative essay you are writing for your English composition class. Discuss your answers with a partner.

    1. Think about things you normally write everyday. What types of styles do they represent?
    2. List three expectations of the academic English writing style audience.
    3. The overall quality of the food served to students at school needs to improve. Even though school districts require students to spend hours in science classes learning about nutrition and balanced meals, administrators seem to ignore that the best way to teach is by example. The food most schools serve students is neither nutritious nor tasty. There is a great distance between what students learn they should eat and what they really get at school.
    4. The food served at school sucks. I don't eat that stuff, and I never will. Schools should walk their talk and serve us grub that is edible, not that junk that can kill you. When we get pizza, the cheese does not even look like cheese. It looks like some weird alien substance...
    5. Most students and school staff seem to agree that the food served to students in school cafeterias is not good enough. Why still serve it, then? Well, the reality is that it is not that easy to change things in a school district. This fact illustrates the contradiction between what students learn in classes about health and nutrition and what they actually eat.

    Points to Consider

    • Write two sample paragraphs on any of the suggested topics below. One paragraph should display an appropriate tone for an argumentative essay. The other paragraph should display an informal or colloquial tone.
    • In pairs, exchange paragraphs with a partner. Read your partner’s paragraphs and identify which one was written in an academic tone and which was not.
    • Suggested topics:
      • 1- Schools should replace books with laptops.
      • 2- Discuss your academic background and achievements.
      • 3- My recipe for stress management.