Whenever I think of the the best writing style, I am immediately drawn to the period of writing from the 1890s to the 1940s.

For example, "We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty." This is an excerpt from page one of Bram Stoker's "Dracula."

Example 2, "From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books." George Orwell's "Why I Write."

There are many other examples that I could give, but I think that these illustrate the style in a good way. It is very economical writing. It is also not very fantastical; for example, in Bram Stoker's Dracula, he writes "I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams." He then goes on to blame it on the paprika from the night before. A theme I see in a lot of modern writing is to describe absolutely everything, and one would expect a modern writer to give a detailed account of the dream; but Bram Stoker simply explains it as queer, and couches it, leaving the reader to decide if they want to imagine what the dreams might have been. (I should defend myself by saying that I don't think that writers who do explain a lot are bad, but I personally enjoy this style, the economical style, of writing more.)

But, again, what is most amazing to me about the writing style is how few big words they ever use. I had a habit of thinking I was clever in middle school and using all sorts of big words by keeping a thesaurus next to me when I wrote essays. This is much less clever to me now as it was then, but these words are now a very serious part of my vocabulary, and it is very difficult not to write sentences where these words would fit.

I've heard of so many authors who copied their idol's writing style. Christopher Hitchens said that he deliberately tried to copy Orwell, and then mostly abandoned it while only keeping the spirit of his writing in mind.

How does one abandon their writing habits and pick up another style? I understand that it is practice, but getting out of the mindset of excessive adjectives and large words seems nearly impossible.

2 Answers 2

  1. Read books in the style you want to emulate.

    The less you expose yourself to writing (and spoken language) in other styles, the more your own style of writing (and thinking) will tend towards your goal.

    Think of learning languages. It's easier to learn a foreign language if you live in an environment that uses only that language and do not resort to your mother tongue.

  2. Analyze the style. What are its features? Grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, word order, metaphors, viewpoint, etc.

  3. Create a style guide with the features you have identified, including examples.

  4. Use the features you have identified in your own writing.

  5. Let what you have written rest for some time to gain distance from it, then analyze your own writing side by side with examples from the style you want to emulate and see where they differ.

    Try to "correct" your "mistakes" to the best of your ability, then put that exercise away and do another one.

Think of an actor wanting to learn how to speak like a person from a certain social background or a painter attempting a forgery. Like all learning, it is a circular process of observation, emulation, self-observation, correction, observation, and so on.


I concur with @Cloudchaser advice, and suggest a simple enough experiment.

  1. Come up with a short story with a well-defined plot, and write it down;
  2. For a month, read nothing but the books written in the style that you want to emulate;
  3. At the end of the month, sit down and write your story again, without looking into the original;
  4. Compare the two stories and enjoy the result.
  • Nice. (+1) ....
    – user29032
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 19:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.