Narrative craft is important, but even more important is the ability to write well and with style, so that each line is a pleasure for the reader. What is style? According to Jonathan Swift, it’s not much more than proper words in their proper place. The writing in a decent instruction manual might achieve that — Hemingway talked about getting the words right — without being what you or I might think stylish. So there has to be a little more to it than clear expression. The novelist Henry Green said that a writer’s style is ‘himself, and we are all of us changing every day’. Perhaps writers’ styles emerge from the rhythms of speech where they grew up, from the style of authors in whose style they aspire to write, from the lyrics of songs they know, from writing they find in print, online and in the media. It may well be to do with the sound of language, as well as its meaning. The foundations of style lie in some of the aspects of writing we’re about to examine: language, syntax, vocabulary choice, grammar and punctuation. Let’s look at the style of a couple of contemporary writers.
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