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How to Define Your Writing Style

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dictionary page open to the word definition

“Style is to forget all styles.” – Jules Renard

The word “style” as a noun means “a manner of doing something.” As a verb, it means “to make in a particular form.” Either way you put it; style is distinctive. It stands out. Just as Mr. Renard said, having a style means to forget every other style. After all, your style is just that: yours.

When writing website copy, it’s important to have a writing style that communicates who you are to your visitors. This may be the first time they meet you: what do you want to say and how do you want to say it?

Style & Voice: What’s the Difference?

When writing website copy for your business, both your style and voice should come through clearly. Although used interchangeably, these two terms couldn’t be more different.

Your voice is your unique personality—the “special sauce” on the page.

Your style is how you write—the way you string your words together on the page.

Your voice includes the thoughts and quirks that make you unique. Your style, on the other hand, is how you deliver those things to the world. Are you a socks-and-sandals type (we won’t judge)? Or, do you make sure you wear an “I mean business” blazer every single day? Just like the clothes you wear, your style is how you present your inner voice to others.

Style Is Best Understood by Listening to the Pros

Some of the most cherished authors throughout history became so dear to us due to their writing style. For example, Ernest Hemingway’s style was direct and to the point, developed from his years as a reporter and dislike for flowery language.

“It was a fine morning. The horse-chestnut trees in the Luxembourg gardens were in bloom. There was the pleasant early morning feeling of a hot day. I read the papers with the coffee and then smoked a cigarette.”

Then there’s A.A. Milne, creator of our favorite bear, Winnie the Pooh. Beyond Pooh, there are hundreds of poems that look something like this:

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn’t any
Other stair
Quite like

A.A. Milne often capitalized words that you wouldn’t otherwise capitalize, broke sentences and more—on purpose. Whenever you read one of his pieces, you know who it belongs to. This is the definition of a writing style.

Defining Your Writing Style: 6 Things to Consider

Sure, you’re not writing a children’s classic or a Pulitzer Prize novel, you’re writing a website for your business. Regardless, style is just as important for your website copy as it is for any work. The style you use to write your website will set the tone for how customers perceive who you are as a business and a service provider.

1. Consider Your Audience

Before you go any further, it’s time to take a minute to consider your audience. The potential customers you’re trying to attract will expect a certain style while on your website. For example, if you’re an attorney, you may err on the side of professionalism versus wit. To dig in deeper, develop an ideal customer persona to better understand their preferences.

2. Choose Adjectives to Describe Your Content

When a customer reads your content online, how do you want them to describe it? Choose adjectives to describe your content and keep them close. Should your content be:

  • Addictive
  • Educational
  • Funny
  • Futuristic
  • Informative
  • Inspiring
  • Memorable
  • Professional
  • Simple

These words will help you determine the rest of your style. For example, inspiring content might include more storytelling versus simple copy that includes straightforward language.

3. Consider Your Point of View

According to Writer’s Digest, “the narrator’s relationship to the story is determined by point of view.” The same is true when it comes to your customer. In writing, there are typically three points of view including first person, second person and third person.

  • First person: “I” or “we”
  • Second person: “You”
  • Third person: “He”, “She”, “It”, or “They”

You’ll need to choose a point of view for when speaking to or about your customers and for speaking about your business. To build a connection, we recommend using second person to speak directly to your customer and first person when speaking about your business.

4. Outline Grammar & Punctuation Rules

Some grammar and punctuation choices such as whether or not to use an Oxford comma or ending sentences with prepositions will be up to you to make. To make it simple, use an existing style guide such as AP, APA, or MLA as a base for your grammar and punctuation rules. AP style is the most common style guide for copywriting, used by the Associated Press and created for journalists.

5. Get Serious About Formatting

Formatting refers to the presentation or the layout of your content on a website page. Formatting is critical to the overall readability and understanding of your copy.

Here are some of the more major formatting options to consider:

  • Headings and subheadings: Decide where you’ll want to use headings and subheadings. Most of the time, headings prepare the reader for what lies beneath. Subheadings break big blocks of content into smaller pieces, making them easier to read.
  • Lists: Will you want to use padded bulleted lists in your copy? If so, do you prefer complete sentences with periods, or will you use colons? In what cases will you use numbers instead of bullets?
  • Emphasis: When emphasizing a word or phrase, will you use bold or italics?
  • Links: When linking to other website pages or content, what language should you avoid? For example, will you use “read more” or “click here”? Choose whether or not to allow linking from the first word of a sentence.
  • Paragraphs: Are you a short-and-sweet kind of writer? Or a the-longer-the-better kind of writer? Will you have one-sentence paragraphs? Or must you have three or four sentences per paragraph? Shorter paragraphs are easier to digest for website visitors, sure, but you only want to use them if they fit with your overall writing style.

Bonus Tip: Create a Writing Style Guide for Your Business

These pieces of your unique style deserve a place to call home. Create a style guide to keep your style preferences all in one place and use it as you create more content. In the event that you must hire someone to help with your content efforts, a style guide will be critical for consistency. HubSpot offers some great templates for help when creating your guide.

Download the Ultimate Worksheet to Define Your Writing Style

Defining your writing style is one of the most important steps to create website copy that connects with your audience. We’ve put together a free writing style guide worksheet to help you define your style and keep it close as you create more content.

Your Style Helps Communicate Who You Are to Your Customers.

Your customers want to know you and form a connection before they reach out. Is your website communicating your unique message? If not, use these tips to create a style that is uniquely yours. If you’d like to learn more about writing style, reach out to us.

Erin Larson