Analyzing Style

Remember to practice close-reading, that is, to substantiate every stylistic claim you make about your chosen voice with evidence from the text you selected.

Elements of style that can be analyzed:

  • Tone and stance–Is your chosen text formal? Informal? Academic? Personal? Comedic? Mournful? Technical? How do you know?
  • Point-of-view–Is the text first person, second person, or third person? What effect, if any, does the point of view have on the ethos of the text?
  • Diction–Does the text employ slang? The deliberate use of old-fashioned or obscure terminology? Is there reference to art or media? Is that art or media considered high culture? Pop culture?
  • Sentence-length, paragraph-length, and syntax–Is there any pattern to the length of the sentences that seems remarkable or unusual? To the length of the paragraphs? For example, are there a series of short, clipped sentences? Are there any unusual order to the words? If so, what is the effect?
  • Literary Devices–Does the writer utilize any figures of speech, quotes, or constructions in a repetitive or systematic way? If so, what is the effect on the text?
  • Overall effect–If you had to characterize the text in one word, what would it be? Why?

Of course, there are more elements to style than just those noted above. Feel free to stray from the above if you notice something interesting occurring stylistically with your chosen voice that doesn’t fit into any of the aforementioned categories. Remember that style is more the how something is being talked about than what is being talked about, though content can’t completely be ignored.

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