Questions tagged [style]

This tag should be used for questions that deal with a consistent style in your writing, such as when asking about typical ways to introduce a certain aspect to your reader by showing-telling or if you are concerned that your readers might feel that a change in the point of view might be perceived as inconcsistency.

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208
votes
26answers
28k views

The “Rules” of Writing

There are a lot of axioms that get tossed around in creative writing courses, books on writing, and of course, the Internet. Often, these little gems are explained to new writers as though they were ...
22
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5answers
5k views

I'm getting tired of “he said” “she said” in dialogue; how do I get around it?

I get tired of "he said", "she said", "they replied". Is there a better, but still reasonable way, to indicate dialogue?
13
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7answers
2k views

When should a chapter end?

When writing a novel, when should I end a chapter? Note that I'm not talking about chapter word-count (that topic was discussed here). I'm interested to know when should I end my chapters ...
25
votes
7answers
7k views

What are the most common style manuals?

From Wikipedia: A style guide or style manual is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization or field. ...
60
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23answers
10k views

Choosing character names is a constant difficulty

I find it hard to name my characters. Every normal name sounds funny if applied to a product of my fantasy. If I take a common name, I may get the image of someone I know into my head. And that may ...
21
votes
9answers
2k views

Something different: Help me find the unnecessary words.

I had a professor, once upon a time, a guy named Jim Guetti. He was possibly the best writing coach I've ever had. You took his classes for the privilege of submitting works for him to gut with a red ...
12
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5answers
2k views

How should dialog be formatted?

Is there any "official" rule that I should keep in mind when formatting character dialog? Line breaks, placement of quotes, mixing dialog with action descriptions etc. For example, I want to build a ...
7
votes
5answers
18k views

How to avoid using “he/she/it” repetitively in action

Please do not make this a duplicate, I know there's a couple of questions like this, but they are not quite like my question, and their answers don't answer my question to the fullest, hence me asking ...
3
votes
4answers
638 views

Direct thoughts

The most commonly given advice for using direct thoughts seems to be to format them in italics. I am not really satisfied with that, however. I haven't seen this used anywhere (granted, I do not read ...
72
votes
21answers
5k views

How to overcome the fact that I can't write?

My problem is that I basically suck at writing. Especially prose. Part of it is basically because I don't practice as much as I could. Part of it is because I'm just not talented in that way. ...
10
votes
2answers
515 views

What is generally the accepted format style for telepathic communication in the midst of verbal communication?

At this point in my story, it's already been revealed that 2 characters share a telepathic link with one another that allows them to communicate to each other with their minds. "Now before we ...
1
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1answer
5k views

Do you italicize fictional company names?

Generally in fiction writing, you don't italicize company names (even though you would italicize the name of a newspaper). But what do you do if the company name is fictional, especially a name that ...
38
votes
8answers
3k views

When is it okay to “tell”, instead of “show”?

One of the major mantras of writing fiction is "show, don't tell". Is it ever okay to tell? When?
14
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3answers
617 views

How to create space

Recently, a few snippets of my fiction have received critiques along the lines of 'Does not give a sense of space'. Or 'needs more description, sights and sounds'. I think where I am going wrong is ...
4
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5answers
401 views

Punctuating Thoughts

Following my question here I am still unsure if it is a 'hard and fast' rule to italicise thoughts. My preference is to use normal quotation marks, so that if a person is thinking in a dialogue ...
55
votes
8answers
27k views

“All of a sudden…” ?

I am writing a manuscript for a novel. It's my first attempt, and often I find myself wanting to write "suddenly" or "all of a sudden". I do this when I want the scene to change in an instant, or ...
22
votes
3answers
8k views

What's with all the hate on adjectives and adverbs?

Ok, I'm starting to get a feel for this, but I'm hoping someone can explain it more clearly for me. I learned in all my English classes that sensory imagery is important, which naturally involves a ...
13
votes
5answers
1k views

When is a prologue useful?

Prologues tend to get a bad rap on the internet, and sometimes for good reason. They're often used by as an excuse to start a novel with an info-dump. However, it seems to me that people often ...
15
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8answers
1k views

How do I stop my writing sounding like a bad imitation of whatever author I've just been reading?

I like to read across a variety of authors, genres, and publication dates. Whenever I sit down to write something of my own immediately after marathoning a book or series, I tend to unconsciously use ...
13
votes
5answers
592 views

How do you find your unique style?

Let me preface this by saying I am quite young as writers go, only 20. Oftentimes as I am writing, I find myself simulating the style of whatever I most recently read-- sometimes the clipped and ...
8
votes
8answers
787 views

How can I stop overusing “I” in my writing?

I won't edit this question, so you can see how much I use it. The current count is 3 times. I've been told that the solution is to revise, revise, revise, but is there a particular strategy for ...
11
votes
2answers
434 views

Colloquial speech in pre-modern setting

Following this question, I'm struggling with writing the speech of pre-modern (in my case - 5th century) noble-born children among themselves. Characters who are well-educated would not be making ...
2
votes
2answers
449 views

Period outside quotation marks …?

I am quoting a phrase (not dialog) that happens to come at the end of a sentence. Formal writing protocol - I think - tells us that punctuation goes inside the quotes but it seems strange here. A ...
9
votes
2answers
5k views

Are contractions antithetical to academic writing?

This question is very specific to academic writing: I used the contraction "don't" instead of "do not" in some of the papers. Some of the reviewers mentioned that "don't" is not a formal style of ...
2
votes
2answers
232 views

What free tools are there to help me improve my English?

I am in the process of writing a research paper in Computer Science. Are there any free tools/browser plugins/web sites/latex plugins that would help me improve my English? I am looking for some nice ...
39
votes
4answers
3k views

How do you avoid purple prose?

I try to watch out for bland, overused adjectives and I keep adverbs to a minimum but -- I hear this phrase a lot and I'm not even sure what it means?
29
votes
11answers
3k views

What's Essential In A Combat Scene?

I've just been reading a bunch of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books. Although they were the most enjoyable read I'd had in ages I always found myself skimming long segments that described involved ...
27
votes
13answers
5k views

Could I reach the level of good writing style as non-native language speaker?

I currently write in Russian, but I think of switching to English to gain more audience and to play with both languages and linguistics. So could I ever reach the level of native English writers and ...
24
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2answers
25k views

What are widely-used UK-English style guides?

In the UK, what are the equivalents to Chicago Manual of Style, the Associated Press style guide, Yahoo, APA, MLA, etc? Most importantly, what are their intended audiences? (AP is used for journalists,...
28
votes
3answers
46k views

Which words should not be capitalized in Title Case?

I would need a list of all words that are not capitalized in English titles. I would also like to make sure if it's true, that all first and last words of a title are capitalized no matter what. I'd ...
15
votes
7answers
1k views

What helpful writing exercises do you use?

The two I do most are dialog and description related. When I meet a person or I'm just sitting people watching, I try to write their description in my head as if I was describing a character in a ...
25
votes
13answers
5k views

What makes writing emotional?

Over the years, my English professors seem to have agreed on one thing: that I'm a superb technical writer, but terrible at eliciting emotional response in something like a story or an argumentative ...
14
votes
4answers
20k views

How to create varying, yet realistic, speech patterns

Different characters speak differently. If someone reads me a letter written by an immediate relative, I can tell right away who wrote it. I believe --and correct me if I'm wrong-- that giving each ...
18
votes
6answers
2k views

Avoiding Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy

Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy is when the audience is put off by the incredibly dark nature of a fictional work and won't care what happens next, lose interest or want all the characters to die off....
17
votes
11answers
6k views

How to write realistic female dialogue

I just can't make my dialogue sound like it's being said by a woman. As a friend of mine pointed out, "This woman talks just like you, Jack." I tried imitating the speech patterns of various females ...
28
votes
11answers
87k views

Should I indent the first line of the first paragraph in a chapter?

I was reading a thesis report of a friend and I noticed that he didn't indent the first line of the first paragraph in each chapter. I don't remember noticing it anywhere before until I saw it there ...
14
votes
8answers
3k views

What are the limits to description in story writing? How do I know if I have crossed them?

Time and time again, I have been told that my unfounded focus on description distracts from the main story line. I mostly write stories in English, which doesn't happen to be my first language but I'm ...
21
votes
6answers
5k views

Is head-hopping always bad?

The general consensus nowadays seems to be that being in the head of more than one character is bad. We should be "on the shoulders" or "in the head" of one character, and one character only, if not ...
13
votes
4answers
946 views

When should I avoid the passive voice? When might I use it?

An opinion exists that overusing of the passive voice can make writing harder for reading and understanding. Is it true for all kinds of writing? How to follow this advice without overemphasizing it? ...
11
votes
8answers
2k views

What are the tricks to avoid repetition in writing?

After some time of working on my research, I usually have a structured information of my results, which I can best describe in bullets/numbers. Unfortunately, this is not what academia expects. For ...
10
votes
7answers
933 views

Writing techniques or exercises to improve ability to show rather than tell?

Does anyone have any effective writing techniques or exercises that you use to help you focus more on showing the reader what you mean rather than just telling them about? I know I often find myself ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

What's the difference between purple prose and vividly descriptive writing?

Elements of Style describes purple prose as "hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating." In short, it's ornate, contrived and breaks the narrative. There's plenty of advice on ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Striking the balance between dialogue and narrative

I am participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. I have never in my life written so much of a single story. Although I am supposed to tell my inner editor to shut up this month, she is ...
22
votes
9answers
10k views

What breaks suspension of disbelief?

So much of Sci-Fi and Fantasy requires the viewer (or reader) to suspend their disbelief: The speed of light can be circumvented, magic works, vampires are real (and may or may not sparkle), etc. ...
18
votes
9answers
3k views

Referencing modern pop culture in science fiction

A geek today is quite likely to reference the pop culture of 30 years ago: "Do or do not, there is no try", "Beam me up, Scotty" and "Ground control to Major Tom" are easily and commonly recognisable. ...
14
votes
4answers
551 views

How do you vary dialogue within stories? [duplicate]

How do you vary dialogue within stories? I often find myself writing "'sentence/dialogue' said character", and it sometimes gets really repetitive. How is this managed? These are the only words that ...
8
votes
6answers
9k views

Examples for books that don't use (traditional) chapters? [closed]

I'm a big fan of Terry Pratchett, and he doesn't use chapters (mostly). Are there any other authors who tend to not use traditional chapters or chapters at all in novels?
7
votes
5answers
395 views

“Too modern” words

In a story set in a fantasy version of 5th century Persia, I've been told by a beta reader that a boy wouldn't call his father "dad", (would use "father" instead), wouldn't say "no spoilers", etc. I ...
4
votes
6answers
517 views

How do I keep up with current written English language?

I am a speaker of English as a foreign language. I appreciate that English is a living language and that different regions in the world use English differently. I wanted to know how I can keep up with ...
15
votes
4answers
3k views

In end user documentation, should screenshots come before or after the text that references them?

The end user documentation I'm writing makes use of screenshots (and partial screenshots) to show the user what I'm referring to in procedural instructions or conceptual explanations of the software. ...