What Is Style, pt. 2

Style is a hard concept to define. Style can mean rules or artistically breaking rules. Style is the definition of these rules. Style is a hard concept to define because we must ask ourselves, “who defines style?”

Is genre style? Are grammatical rules style? Is word-choice style? Is a chosen medium style? And the answer is “yes.” Style encompasses any form of writing we encounter. This can mean any genre of writing, and medium of writing, anything around any writing.

Some people have a clear-cut definition of style, like Strunk & White in their book Elements of Style. Some people’s definition of style comes from the way that they write, or the way that they don’t. We all have tastes, and our definition of style can come from our tastes, and our tastes can come from style.

I am hesitant to say that style can have one definition. The root of the word comes from the Latin word stylus, which was a word for a type of writing implement, such as metal or bone used on a wax tablet in ancient times. This is where the word “style” comes from for written composition. The ancients are also responsible for some of the early definitions of what “good” writing style, or rhetoric, encompasses.

Style has come to mean more than tropes of language and rhetoric. Style can mean rules, but it has come to stand for almost any way that we can define writing.

Because style can mean rules, or the breaking of rules, or the absence of rules (at least in my own mind), everything then has style. Because everything has style, this leaves it up to us to define what we believe is “good” or “bad” style. We are the creator and the judge.

Style, then, can’t be defined.


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