Mix up your style with this writing exercise

Could tweaking your style make your articles, blog posts, and white papers more effective? Try the writing exercise I describe below. The results may surprise you.

In Stylish Academic Writing, author Helen Sword proposes a writing exercise in which you first evaluate something you’ve written in terms of the chart below.



In other words:

  1. Does it use the first person (see column A)?
  2. Does it use a personal or impersonal voice (see column B)?
  3. Is it subjective or objective (see column C)?
  4. Is it formal or informal (see column D)?

Answering these questions will help you to understand your starting point.

The next step in Sword’s writing exercise? She says:

What happens if you change one or two of these variables? For example, if you usually write in a third-person, impersonal, objective, formal mode, introduce I or we and see how you feel about the results.

Writing exercise: my sample rewrites

For example, let’s rewrite my first paragraph without any pronouns. Here’s the result, which I’ll call Alternative #1:

When writers tweak their style, does it make their articles, blog posts, and white papers more effective? The writing exercise below will help writers to test that hypothesis. The results may surprise the participants.

Now, here’s Alternative #2:

Hey, want to write more effectively? Dump your old habits and replace them with a new style!

What do you think about the writing exercise results?

Comparing my initial paragraph with Alternatives #1 and #2, which is the most engaging? Do you find one more convincing than the other? More credible?

I like the leanness of #2, but it doesn’t sound like me. Still, it does make me wonder if I could streamline my introduction. It’s good for me to challenge myself. You can benefit, too.

Speaking of leanness, you can assess whether your text is lean or flabby using the tool I discuss in “Editing tool: the Writer’s Diet.” Helen Sword, the author of Stylish Academic Writing, designed the tool.

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.