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Writing styles, prompts and types of writing

Writing Styles: A How To Guide

No matter what your career choice might be, expressing yourself through writing is a skill that will prove invaluable at some point during your life. Whether you're a creative writer, a student writing a report or just someone trying to get a message across through e-mail, a knowledge of basic writing styles and what they are used for will help you succeed.

Getting Started

Sometimes the most difficult part of writing is getting started. Many people, especially creative writers, are familiar with 'writer's block.' One of the easiest ways to get the creative juices flowing is to use a writing prompt.

1. How to Use a Writing Prompt

A writing prompt is a topic around which you can start forming ideas. It can be a single word, a phrase or even a picture. It is a fecund piece of ground upon which you can sow the seeds of your imagination. With your prompt in front of you, start jotting down ideas. The images and ideas that your prompt awakens in your mind will in turn awaken images and ideas of their own, and before long you will have plenty of material to work with.

Here are some examples of writing prompts:

  • The smell of freshly cut grass.
  • He'd never noticed a door there before.
  • She woke, shivering, in the dark of the night.
  • What would you do if you had three wishes?

Try to choose a writing prompt that suits the topic you're going to be writing about. If you're writing an essay or report, you can still use a writing prompt. Come up with a word or phrase related to your topic, and use it as a starting point to begin brainstorming.

2. Make Your Own Writing Prompt

If you write frequently, it's a good idea to keep a list of writing prompts that you can use when you get stuck. Writing prompts can come from many different places. If you're reading a book, jot down phrases that inspire you or awaken your imagination. Keep a pen and pencil by your bed, and jot down ideas that occur to you as you're drifting off to sleep. Your imagination is especially active at this time. If you're surfing the Internet, save any strange or inspiring pictures you come across. You can use these as writing prompts as well.

Formal Vs. Informal Writing

All styles of writing can be divided into formal or informing writing. Formal writing is used for essays, reports and most non-fiction, while informal writing is used for poetry, stories and most personal communications.

3. What is Formal Writing?

Formal writing is objective. State your main points and back them up with facts, avoiding opinions and emotion. Use longer sentences and fully explain each point. Try to avoid emotive punctuation such as exclamation marks and ellipsis, and use full words instead of contractions. Avoid colloquialisms and slang. Finally, use the third person instead of the first person point of view. You want to be appear disconnected from the topic, and to come across as completely impartial.

4. What is Informal Writing?

Informal writing is addressed to the reader, and is designed to evoke emotion and sympathy. You can often imitate spoken conversation, and use shortened forms of words, as well as slang, figures of speech and emotive punctuation. Sentences can be short and even incomplete, and it is acceptable to use the first or second person point of view.

Narratives Vs. Expositions

Whether you use a formal or an informal writing style will depend on your relationship to the reader. You will also need to decide if you are writing a narrative or an exposition. The purpose of a narrative is to capture a reader's imagination and entertain them, and the purpose of an exposition is to inform, explain or argue a point.

5. What is Narrative Style?

Narrative style is used to tell a story, and you use it when you want to narrate a sequence of events. You will need to use descriptive language in order to keep your reader's attention. If you know you want to write a narrative, you still need to decide whether it's going to be a formal or an informal narrative. In a formal narrative, you are addressing an educated reader, and use more complex language in order to explain what happened and why. You will often use an omniscient, third person point of view. In an informal narrative, you will use conversational language, and include slang and figures of speech. You will often speak from the first person point of view, as though you are telling a story that happened to you.

6. What is Expositional Style?

Expositional style is used to impart facts to your reader. You want to use precise language and avoid personal opinions. When writing an exposition, you will almost never use first person point of view. If you have decided to write an exposition, you will need to decide whether it's going to be a formal or an informal exposition. A formal exposition is a very academic piece of writing. You will use exact terminology and avoid emotion. Your only purpose is to educate the reader. Informal exposition, on the other hand, is often used by journalists who write for newspapers or magazines. You will use emotional language and try and build suspense in order to keep your readers interested in the facts you are imparting. The purpose is to still to educate or inform, but you will include elements typical to more traditional storytelling.

Creative Writing

Creative writing is writing in which you use your imagination to captivate and inspire your readers. You will use descriptive language and techniques such as metaphors. Creative writing is especially useful for authors and poets.

7. Examples of Creative Writing Techniques

Similes - Similes are comparisons that use the word 'like' or 'as.' "I ran like the wind," is an example of a simile.

Metaphors - Metaphors are comparisons formed without the words 'like' or 'as.' "He was a rock of good sense," is an example of a metaphor.

Personification - Personification is a creative writing technique that ascribes human actions or feelings to an inanimate object. "The wind wailed outside the house and rattled the windows," is an example of personification.

There are many other creative writing techniques, but these are three of the most important tricks that anyone can use to make their writing more engaging.

IELTS Writing

The IELTS test is an international, standardised test of proficiency in the English language. It is the most commonly used test in the world when it comes to higher education and immigration. Many universities require foreign students to take the IELTS test, and some countries require a certain score on the IELTS test from immigrants. There are two versions of the IELTS test, the academic version and the general version.

8. IELTS Academic Writing Test

The academic writing test consists of two parts. In the first part, candidates will be provided with information on a certain topic. The information will take the form of graphics and diagrams. They will be required to write a descriptive, 150 word report on the information. In the second part, candidates will be given a topic, and they will have to come up with a clear and logical argument based on the topic they have been given. Their argument will have to be 250 words.

9. IELTS General Writing Test

The general writing test consists of two parts. In the first part, candidates will be given a problem or situation, and they will be required to write a letter addressing this issue. The letter will need to be formal or semi-formal in tone, and will need to be at least 150 words. In the second part, candidates will have to write an essay on a given topic. The essay will need to be at least 250 words in length, and they will need to discuss the information given in the topic statement.

10. 10 Tips for Writing Your IELTS Tests

Taking the IELTS test can be an excellent opportunity to gauge your writing skills, even if English is your first language. If you are learning English, it can important to take the test if you want to travel, live or study in another country. Here are 10 tips for getting the best possible result on your IELTS test:

  1. Plan out your answers before you start writing, and make notes on the ideas you have.
  2. Divide your answers into paragraphs, and put one idea in each paragraph.
  3. Do not repeat an idea using different words. Each sentence should be integral to the point you're trying to make.
  4. Make sure all your points are on topic. Don't introduce any ideas unrelated to your topic.
  5. Use full sentences, and avoid answering either question in note form.
  6. Double check your work for spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  7. Use formal language.
  8. Do not memorise answers beforehand. They won't seem natural, and your test will be invalid.
  9. You will have one hour to complete the test. Spend twenty on minutes on the first question, and save forty minutes for the second, because it needs to be longer.
  10. Double check your word count, and make sure you have at least the minimum number of words for each question.