Three Writing Styles

Status-minded folks write more formally, vs. analytically or narratively:

We analysed hundreds of essays written by my students and we identified three very different writing styles: formal, analytic and narrative.

Formal writing often appears stiff, sometimes humourless, with a touch of arrogance. It includes high rates of articles and prepositions but very few I-words, and infrequent discrepancy words, such as “would”, and adverbs. Formality is related to a number of important personality traits. Those who score highest in formal thinking tend to be more concerned with status and power and are less self-reflective. They drink and smoke less and are more mentally healthy, but also tend to be less honest. As people age, their writing styles tend to become more formal.

Analytical writing, meanwhile, is all about making distinctions. These people attain higher grades, tend to be more honest, and are more open to new experiences. They also read more and have more complex views of themselves.

Narrative writers are natural storytellers. The function words that generally reveal storytelling involve people, past-tense verbs and inclusive words such as “with” and “together”. People who score high for narrative writing tend to have better social skills, more friends and rate themselves as more outgoing. (more; HT Amara Graps)

So do readers assign more status to formal writers? If so, that would explain a common to-me-puzzling lack of interest in being good at analysis or story-telling.

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