8 Common Style Mistakes Every Writer Should Know

8 Common Style Mistakes Every Writer Should Know


Are you struggling with style? In this post, we look at eight common style mistakes every writer should know.

Style is important.

A style guide dictates style for publications and websites. Writers write and editors edit according to style needs.

But correct style can also be difficult to achieve. A piece can change between formal or informal style with a single word. Companies can start or sink, just because of simple style.

Style should be tracked. We need to know if we should use double or single quotation marks, or whether it’s ‘email‘ versus ‘e-mail’ in the text.

Here’s how to achieve better and more consistent style in your writing.

Style Basics

What Is Style?

Style means the same to writing as it does to fashion. It changes the perception of what you’re looking at.

Business, personal, formal, and informal are all types of style. You create a style by the way you use grammar, tone, punctuation, spelling, and formatting.

Your style could be chatty, articulate, vague, or circuitous.

Read: 60 Words To Describe Writing Styles

Publications, magazines, and websites each have their own style. Style guides are documents which keep track of format and style.

Does your blog use the Oxford comma, or not? That’s style at work.

Always ask for style guidelines when writing for new clients or publications.

8 Common Style Mistakes Every Writer Should Know

Proofreading means looking at spelling and grammar, but also for style. If you are not happy with style, the next draft can fix it.

Here’s a closer look at eight common style mistakes every writer should know.

1. Writing Without A Personal Style Guide

Always track style specifics.

Style is easier to get right with your own, personal style guide.

Read: What Is A Style Guide & Why Do I Need One?

I like Calibri more than Times New Roman. Point 12 reads easier. Sometimes I like using bullet points. Headers Look Like This.

The AJC Style Guide is kept for posts on my own blog. Just trust me, it’s easier.

A style guide should include fonts, formatting info, and grammar-specifics.

Read: 6 Basics To Include In Your Style Guide

2. Inconsistent Style

Style should be consistent.

A writer cannot use an Oxford comma in the first half of their book, but not in the latter. Letters can’t begin with formal style, but end with ‘Cheers, mates!’

It is reason to always check writing for style. Then, check it again. Style guides ensure consistency.

Read: The Importance Of Having A Style Guide

For publications, style guides also keep writers and editors on the same page.

3. Lack Of Style In Communication

Style isn’t just for live blog posts and publications.

It’s also important to note your style and tone for any communication.

Read: 4 Ways A Style Guide Will Revolutionise Your Organisation’s Writing

Business-to-business communication requires business-like style. Messaging an editor you’ve known for decades might need more relaxed style.

Writing style can also matter between friends: have you ever seen a friendship sour over grammatical errors or emojis?

It’s just style at work.

4. Mistaking Tone For Style

Style can be defined in a guide, but tone is personal.

An author’s tone dictates the reader’s journey. If the writer is angry, the reader might sympathise, or not.

Read: 155 Words To Describe An Author’s Tone

Tone and style are close friends, but they are not the same thing. Remember to look at them as separate elements when editing your writing.

Always pay attention to your tone when you write. It makes all the difference to the reader. It affects the reader’s mood.

Read: 140 Words To Describe Mood

5. Getting Personal In Business

Business and personal style never mix well.

Familiarity is unprofessional. A business letter can’t read like a gossip magazine. But a gossip magazine can’t read like a friend’s internet search history.

It’s all about style.

Business writing should prefer formal address. Readability is high, and language is plain. Business language and style gets to its point.

Read: 10 Ways To Improve Your Business Writing Style

6. Forcing Style

Editors and readers can see when a writer uses an unfamiliar style. It comes across as choppy.

An article that uses ‘lingo’ to ‘keep up’ with ‘the cool kids’ is a painful example.

Don’t force style. Style should be natural.

Read: How Do You Find Your Writing Voice & 7 Choices That Affect A Writer’s Style

If you work with a style guide, study it until it feels natural. If you have trouble getting style right during writing, reconsider style during editing.

7. Overriding House Style

House style tells the editorial team and writers what’s preferred.

A style sheet indicates house style. Formatting, grammar, and publication-specific text attributes are all here.

But that’s not the only definition of style.

Writers can have individual style, too. Stephen King writes differently to Kathy Reichs. Readers can tell, fans can tell more, and an editor will almost certainly know for sure.

Individual style is sometimes referred to as your writing voice or literary style.

Individual style takes time. Publishing individual style requires a close writer/editor relationship: Hunter S. Thompson got to be Gonzo because his editors let him do it!

8. Lack Of Style Experience

Good writers study style.

A good writer absorbs style from a piece, whether they are paying specific attention to it, or not.

A feature in The Guardian looks different to an article in The Telegraph due to different styles, writers, and style guides.

Books published by Penguin will not have the same font or size as books by Orion for the same reasons.

Familiarise yourself with style and what sets it apart.

The Last Word

Writers Write is a useful resource for writers, editors, and other wordy freelancers. We hope this post helps you fix your common style mistakes.

Read these two articles from Writers Write about how you can improve your writing style beyond this post:

  1. Style Guide Guidelines
  2. The 4 Writing Styles Everybody Should Know

If you need practical help with your grammar and style, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.

Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.

 By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.

If you enjoyed this, read other posts by Alex:

  1. 6 Practical Research Techniques For All Writers
  2. 7 Bits Of Writing Advice From Truman Capote
  3. A Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Write Press Releases
  4. A Writer’s Guide To Gonzo Journalism
  5. The Ultimate Ghostwriting Guide (For Clients & Writers)
  6. Songwriting For Beginners – Part 2
  7. Songwriting For Beginners – Part 1
  8. How To Write Adverts

Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.