Style As a Bibliographic Category

In literature, style is the way of expressing ideas in literary language characteristic to a certain period, community, or country. The term can also be used to designate a particular way of writing – a style, if you will. There are several styles, or fashions. These can include narrative, lyric, and dramatic. Each one has its own unique voice, and its own unique way of presenting thought.


Take for example the story told by George Eliot in ” Eliot’s Reflection” – a highly stylized account of Paris, complete with all the decorative flourishes of Victorian fashion. As a matter of fact, it was from this very “reflection” that such fashion items as corsages and hat pins came into fashion. So, when people say that a novel or story is in a new style, what they really mean is that certain aspects of it have been stylized. For instance, one might read an article or book written in the third person. In that case, the writer would be making a distinction between the writer’s viewpoint and that of the reader, which is of a different nature altogether.

Of course, there are different styles of writing, but when one attempts to classify literature by means of such criteria as word choice, sentence structure, characterization, and even plot, one inevitably misses the mark. Take, for instance, the statement that Moby Dick was a sea captain. That is one writer’s take on what the character of Moby Dick was like, but when you read the novel in its entirety, you come to realize that indeed, the sea captain is a very different person than the sea captain.

Of course, different styles are appropriate in different types of literature. For example, when discussing academic or scientific writing, one writer might use an academic style, one might use a scientific style, and so on. But then the same could be said of popular literature. A writer who writes in a popular style can make many points about the world around us without necessarily making sweeping generalizations about all people. Still, when one attempts to classify all literature according to these broad classifications, it becomes clear that there are different rules for each.

That is why some prefer to use such a system as “the Author’s” or “Word’s” rule of thumb: the writer must choose words that are best described the intended meaning of the text, but which do not presuppose an accurate knowledge of the literary language as such. Thus, the author’s rule is somewhat like Dr. Seuss’ famous ” rhyme is always better than words.” (ickson, p. x). This works well in works where there are literary devices involved, such as in a children’s book where a rhyme is used to express a basic idea. But it fails terribly in works where there is no literary device at all involved, such as in a scientific paper, a biographies work, or a novel.

So which is really the main literary form, and which style is it that should guide all literature? In my opinion, it is the style that identifies the style of its creator. The purpose behind writing a poem, a song, a story, a book, a newspaper article, etc., is to communicate with humans, and so it is that the form of the communication determines its success. And this principle should thus govern all literature-novels, poems, songs, etc., can be successful if they are written in a fashion that appeals to readers.