Guide to Language Styles


guide to language styles

In the modern society, a concept of “style” has become a prevailing one. We often hear and say “style”, “stylish”, “un-stylish” and so on. “Style” can describe different subjects: clothes, music, speech, behavior, entertainment. That is why; a style of writing is an important aspect of the written text.

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The current post represents an outline of the modern understanding of the writing style and the classification of the notion. We always add examples, so that the material is easily studied and remembered. Come on further now!

What’s a style in writing?

The area of the human activities is a vast space. That is, probably, why there is always more to learn. Since the moment a human realized a need in communication, he or she knew the problem of delivering his or her ideas to another person.   

The thing is, we are different. We see the world differently, consider it differently, act differently. The way we do all that is our style. Thus, a notion of style is closely connected with the concept of individuality.

  • Gemma is always dressed smartly and with a
  • touch of chic.
  • Yeah, she’s got a style.

At the same time, we often say and hear about “a retro style”, “hipster style”, “sport style” and so on.  In these definitions, the “style” is presumed to be common for a certain group of people. It performs the function of marking this particular group among other people. Learn about the ways to mark the group in the social environment.

  • I could not find my way along Edinburgh.
  • Why?
  • I asked the people in the street and they all said, what I needed had been “a fair way from here”.

Thus, a style performs different functions. It underlines the individuality and certifies the belonging to a certain group (national, cultural, age group etc.) In the speech and writing, a style serves the same goals. It makes each interlocutor develop its own manner, which can be recognized, by other interlocutors.

  • Dear participants, we appreciate your detailed feedback on the event!
  • Awesome.
  • Dramatic.
  • Classy.

The different understanding of the style is also applicable to the language. During the history of the humanity, the society developed various sets of phrases, expressions, polite formulae that must be used in certain situations. For example, we would use one type of the language (though it would be English in both cases) for explaining the results of the football match to the grandma, and another for sharing the triumph with the friends.

  • Guys, we kicked their *sses!
  • Granny, we were victorious!

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Usage of different wording and expressions for different occasions resulted in the development of the language styles. It is not possible to indicate the date of their appearance as the process had been a gradual and constantly changing one. Just as it is now. Going back in history, browsing the researches about the prehistoric people we’ll see that even at that stage, the acceptable words / sounds were not the same for the communication with family and, let us say, chief of the tribe.  

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So, what is a style in the language terms? A style is the choice of the language / speech means used for delivering the information to other people / interlocutors. The choice of the style depends on the sphere of the speaker’s activities and the end goal of the informational influence of the message.

  • Ladies and gentlemen! We’re delighted to announce

an amazing addition to the menu!

  • Mom, we’ve tasted this pudding already…

As we see, each situation requires the particular style to be chosen. Depending on different factors, it can be:

  • Proper style. The proper style choice means the language chosen corresponds to the expectations of the participants is understood by them and reflects the situation and the relationship between the participants in the mutually agreed way. See a successful implementation of the proper language style on the number one website for editing!
  • Improper style. The language means do not correspond to some of the components of the situation. This might concern both the “level” of the style (lofty style, colloquial style) and its functional aspect (scientific style, technical style, hipster’s style and so on).

Thus, a language style performs a function of the “casting”. Having mastered the proper style, a person might be accepted in some social circles or rejected from them. It also serves for outlining the unique and similar features of the people, for expressing the individuality.

Each language style is a functional style. It means that it serves a certain area of the human activity (space voyages, Disney movies, medicines’ production, social networking and so on). See the definition of the language function and the principles of the relevant approach in linguistics called “the functionalism”. Let us see what styles are there. Steaming on to the classification of the language styles!

Diversity of the functional styles

A functional style is a scientific term of linguistics. At the same time, it’s quite a simple notion. A functional style encompasses the whole diversity of the language means of expression that relate to the specific communication area.

For example, the communication between the friends features more informal expressions and topics than the business talk. Phrases like “What’s up chap?” and “You’ve got a credible portfolio” do not differ in content only. They also represent the relationship between the talkers and their agreed communication area.

A functional style is not equal to the notion of the communication area as the same style can be used both in written and oral communication.

  • What thoughts do you hide in the dusk of the mind?
  • N’ing.

The scientific style can be used for a conference report (oral communication) and for a course paper (written communication). Need a perfect formal and strict scientific style for your paper? Order the academic essay editing for affordable cost!

The functional styles’ classification has a complex structure. The first level of definition is built on the opposition formal / informal:

  • Formal language – concerns all situations and areas where the prescribed forms of the communication are used. The level of freedom regarding the adherence to the rules can be different. The formal communication areas are fiction, media publications, speaker’s performance, official conversation. The latter presumes a monologue preliminary worked out;
  • Informal language – the forms and expressions used can be different, in accordance with the preferences of the talkers.

Thus, with regard to the function, the style can be formal and informal. The difference between these two types lays in the specific lexical means, syntactic constructions, phonetics. See the phonetic differences in the dialects of the English language and how they can influence the communication. Another indicator of the style is the frequency of usage of the specific elements. For instance, one can use some elements of the scientific style (e.g. bipolar transistor) in the informal conversation, with some goal. However, this would happen occasionally. At the same time, the conversational patterns can be used in the scientific reports and articles, though rarely.

That’s a revolutionary theory that will blow up

all the basics of the physic. I dare say,

that’s a cognitive breakthrough!

According to the traditional linguistics, the formal style comprises four substyles:

  1. Scientific style – used for different academic purposes (essays, reports, experiments etc.);
  2. Official style – used for ceremonies, for official correspondence;
  3. Media (newspaper) style – a particularly English style, used for relaying the information of a different kind (most frequently, in the form of an essay) in the newspaper;
  4. Literary style – used for all kinds of fiction, including poetry.

There are several points of view on the classification of the language styles. Learn about the different approaches to styles and other linguistic elements on the most comprehensive webpage on the English language! Mentioned above are the most frequent styles that usually make a base of any classification. Due to the tiny linguistic differences often based on pragmatic reasons (subject of the conversation, participants of the conversation, their specific characteristics, relationship and goals, the actual situation) the task of determining and differentiating the language styles becomes quite a hard work.

Some scientists consider the functional language styles only with regard to the written texts. Their grounds are that in most of the times, the researchers deal with the language / speech fixed by someone in writing. Others argue over this point of view.

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However, all the academics agree that each functional style has its own peculiar feature, sometimes many of them. Some of the scientists pay closer attention to the coordination of the language means and stylistic methods, while others connect the specificity of the functional style to the particulars of its usage in communication. According to I. Galperin, the functional style is a system of the language means serving to some particular goal in the human communication. The functional style must be considered as a final product of the particular task set up by the author of the initial message.

  • Good afternoon, Mr. Bridgewood. (we are not close friends

and I’d like to show respect, politeness and certain aloofness).

  • Morning, bro. (we are close friends and can speak informally).

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The functional styles are usually defined in the literary standard of the language. Their actual embodiment represents the different variants of an abstract style and can differ from it to a certain extent. For example, in the informal talk, one can name another interlocutor in many ways (dude, bro, buddy, dear etc.), each specifying a relationship between the talkers.

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The functional style is a relatively stable system in each particular moment of time. However, it might change considerably during another period. Thus, a functional style is a historic category and must be considered within a particular historic period only.

For example, in XVIIth century the poetry has been in the focus of the social mind. It was considered a separate lofty style, not all words and expressions could be used in the poetic works. Later, in XIXth century, this view has been discriminated. The poetry has been “liberated” and could be written with different words. Thus, a separate poetic style has disappeared. Check the list of the most remarkable poetic works in English.

The development of each style depends on the change of the regulatory norms of the basic English language, along with the changing social conditions, scientific and technical progress, development of the cultural life.

Each functional style has its own language means of representation and thus, sets out its own regulations. Still, these regulations always correspond to the general norms of the language. The writers of the certain period of development of the literary language make a great input in outlining the system language regulations for this period.

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Let us consider each functional style and outline its primary characteristics.

The individual style

Each person using the language develops its own language style. We recognize it when we say, “It’s not like him saying that”. We define it as a “manner” a person talks and writes. The manner (style) lays in the preference of one kind of the language means and non-usage of others.

In the church, you would rather hear the “vial”

and “vessel” than the “cup”.

The deliberate choice of the style and the way of combining its elements characterize the individual style. The latter makes the unique combination of the language units, expression means and stylistic methods used by the particular author. This set of individual features make the text or even a separate phrase of the author recognizable.

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Naturally, the individual style cannot be fully independent of the literary norms and regulations of the certain historic period. At the same time, the way f adapting to these regulations and norms will also bear an imprint of the individual style.

The individual style can also feature a unique punctuation that might represent an acceptable version of the general rule. Learn the ways to use punctuation in your writing and become a master of the English word!

The individual style is based on the perfect knowledge of the language that is used in the certain period and is characteristic by a certain deviation from the strict language and communication norms. The individual style implies the usage of the potential ability (function) of the language means. It is often considered as a successful one if another function of the word or an expression is found.

“To beat or not to beat” – the headline of the newspaper

article about the local sports’ competition.

Each author has a specific manner of “juggling” the language means that he or she uses for inspiring the expected effect. The author deliberately uses some particular language means and omits the other ones. The deliberate character of the process makes a core notion of the individual style – and differs it from the idiolect. The latter is the manner of speech of each particular person, reflected in his or her everyday communication. Professional and quick proof reading in the UK will allow to set out your own individual style and preserve the norms of the formal academic style!

formal vs informal language style

The formality opposition – the conversational and pedantic style

As we’ve seen from the above, the classification of the functional styles is based on the opposition “formal – informal”. The extreme points of this opposition belong to the conversational and pedantic styles. Need a competent proof reading of your academic paper? Check our conditions and rates. We are ready to accept your order!

As any opposition, the stylistic one also has a middle point that goes “blank” in relation to the polar. With regard to the language style, such middle position is occupied by the neutral style.

The notion of the neutral style is used mainly for the description of the basis that makes a ground for reflection of all the other styles. It represents a compressed vocabulary featuring the words and expressions that can be used in any situation, such as dog, hello!, essay. The neutral style is marked by the absence of the stylistic elements. All its elements can be used in any communicative situation.

  • Dear, did you bring the vegetables?
  • Ms. Johnes, did you bring your essay?
  • Chap, did you bring a guitar?

Thus, a neutral style is an essence of the basic language elements. Frankly speaking, this style is an abstraction, as it is impossible to use it, without adding any stylistic elements. However, the outlining of this style allows making a basis for definition of the specific elements of other styles.

Grammar is the part of the language system that necessarily affects the style and its implementation. Having a good knowledge of the grammar, you will be able to master any style. Check the principles of the basic grammar; learn the Future Perfect Tense and the way to use the sequence of Tenses.

Let us consider the extreme points of the above-defined opposition of the conversational and pedantic styles. Both of these styles can be used in the oral and written form. The speaker’s style that is a sub-category of the pedantic style exists only in the oral form. A fiction writer might use it for relaying the dialogues of the characters of the play or novel. At the same time, it is not usually represented in the way of the actual dialogue. The writer often picks only some characteristic elements in order to give an impression of the manner of speech.

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The conversational style has appeared on the basis of the oral communication. Its primary area is a situation of everyday talk.

  • Hello! How is going? How’s your course paper?
  • Hi. Still going.

The particular lexical features of this style are compressions – the shortened forms of words and expressions (can’t, I’d, howdy) and abbreviations (phablet, Mex, doc). The vocabulary of this style is less diverse than in other styles. In the terms of syntax, it stands out due to the usage of the compound sentences. Mostly, the conjunctions are not used.

Luckily, we’ve found the bus stop jammed in between

two beauty shops.

The communication often bears a personal character and performs a function of the social connection. That is why, some elements of the sentence might be dropped (these can be Subject, auxiliary Verbs, link-Verbs and so on).

I’ve been writing my essay, my friend – her lab report.

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The words can be used in the different meanings. Usually, they acquire either a wide general or a narrow specific meaning.

  • What’s that thing?
  • That’s an onecycle.

Often, the hyperbolic expressions are used.

The performance was awesome. Thanks a ton.

The conversational style is used in the everyday dialogues. Its area is a spontaneous informal (regular) communication. The expression of the phrases is complemented by the pragmatic elements – gestures, mimics, intonation.  

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The conversational style has its own subcategories that define a different proportion of elements of the other styles presented in the speech. These are lofty, regular and low conversational styles. The regular and low sub-styles feature the particular language means and expressions that depend on the residence, sex and age of the speaker.

British: The dinner was perfect. Your wife is so homely!

American: The dinner was outstanding. Your wife is so hospitable!

Now that we’ve outlined the specificity of the conversational style, let us come further and analyze its opposition – the formal (pedantic) style.

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The formal styles of the English language

The pedantic style comprises four basic and two additional styles. The basic styles were mentioned above, the additional ones making the speaker’s and poetic style. Some linguists consider the poetic style as a purely historical category not relevant for the modern English language.

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The scientific style is a category of the national literary language that aims for the proving of the scientific researches. This goal sets out the choice of the lexical and grammar means. The words are used in their direct basic meaning (except the situations when they might be used in the specific technical sense, e.g. a crown as a mechanism detail). The text features a lot of academic and technical terms, Latin abbreviations (etc. – et cetera (and others), modus operandi). The usage of the particular conjunctive elements (in connection with, as a result, optionally) makes a specific grammar feature of the scientific style.

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The scientific style is intended for specialists who possess respective knowledge. It foresees the usage of as little words as possible and the description of the essence of the subject. The order and structure of the sentences are formalized. The syntax must be straight and stereotypic. Each paragraph must begin with the key sentence relaying the main idea.

The topic of the current research is …

The main goal of the research has been …

The results received were …

In some researches, the speaker’s and poetic style are considered as a pure scientific reconstruction. That happens due to their content and expression means being the same as in other styles. With regard to the linguistic functions, the speaker’s style performs all the functions (communicative, voluntative, emotional, contact establishment, aesthetic). Thus, it relays the information, sends a certain message, a wish of the speaker and his influence, relays and inspires emotions, establishes the contact between the speaker and the auditory, inspires aesthetic feelings. In comparison, the scientific style performs only one function – communicative. See the detailed review on the communicative function in English.

There are no strict limits separating the styles. The speaker’s style has a lot in common with the editorial and media style. The latter is close to the conversational style. Yet, delving deeper into the problem, it becomes obvious that the combination of the different styles is regarded, in the speech of a particular person.

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The speaker’s style is used for the speeches that make an exquisite impression. The aim of such a speech is to persuade the spectator’s in the right position of someone or something, to prompt to an action. The stylistic methods are the repetitions, parallel constructions rhetorical questions. The addressing phrases often belong to a lofty style (Honorable assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen etc.), polite expressions (it is an honor to speak, with your highest permission).

Honorable committee, your humble servant is here to cry out.

Cry out because of the blatant discrimination of rights.   

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The specific feature of this style is the usage of repetitions and exaggeration (tragic, blatant, unbearable and so on). The direct appeal to the public is a basic feature of the speaker’s style.

The direct contact with the spectator allows using the combination of the syntactic, lexical and phonetic peculiarities of both the writing and oral speech. The style features the irregular usage of the colloquial words and abbreviations.

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The stylistic methods are determined by the situation of the speech. In order to keep the focus on the subject, the speaker might repeat the main idea several times. Often, the traditional metaphors are used.

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The literary style is used for writing the fiction novels. Its main goal is to express and inspire the thoughts, feelings, emotions. It possesses significant imagery potential. Various specific language means, such as metaphor (depicting one thing by means of properties of another), epithet (colorful adjective), inversion, are used.

How sad your shadowed face is …

How tragic is the fate.

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The traditional linguistics outlines three subcategories for this style: a poetic style, an emotional prose style and a drama style. Each of them possesses the common features to all others, along with the individual specificity.

In all the styles of the English language, Modal Verbs play an important role. Some styles might use them more frequently (e.g. a conversational style, literary style), others – less often (a scientific style). Be always ready for any conversation with our modern Modal Verb tutorial.

The literary style is an individual style in its essence. All the subcategories of the literary style perform the aesthetic and cognitive function. In other words, they inspire the feeling of beauty and relay the information. The idea is developed in the reader’s presence, before his or her eyes. The reader reveals the author’s idea and forms his own conclusion. This process inspires a feeling of the aesthetic satisfaction.

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The literary style features the original non-cliché images created by linguistic means. The words can be used in a different meaning that highly depend on the surrounding words and depicted situation. The way of writing transmits the author’s idea and attitude to some extent that is performed by introduction of the special individual syntax and word choice.

A bar has been in place. Theirs was the choice – to consider it

as an obstacle (a metal bar) or a means (a gold bar).

The literary style often features the elements of the conversational style. That is made in order to increase the imagery potential of the text. Mostly such stylistic method is used in drama, at the less grade – in the regular prose and poetry.

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The poetic language has a special form. It is built on the rhythmic and phonetic construction of the phrases. The repetition of the pattern is an obligatory condition. Such formals restrictions lead to the compression of the expressions, creation of the fresh unexpected images. With regard to the syntax, it results in the usage of the incomplete sentences, differentiated clauses, inversions etc.

The fresh drop of the sky

Sparkles in the palm.

The emotional prose has the similar features, but the way of connection of the elements differs. The imagery potential of the prose is less powerful than that of the poetry; the number of words depending on the context is not so high. The emotional prose combines the literary version of the language with the conversational one. This is valid for both syntax and lexis.

  • Check the lily, the chancellor said.
  • A servant raised an eyebrow.

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The prose features a lot of the imitation of the conversational style. However, it is not just a repetition of the natural speech but the worked out literary interpretation. See the essays on the different aspects of the human activities, including the English writing, on the cool English blog for students! All you wanted to discuss is already there! Join and argue!

The prose always features two forms of communication. One is the monologue (self-speech) and another is dialogue (a conversation between two people). It allows using the elements of the other styles but such elements necessarily feature the aspects of the literary style. The fragments written in other styles can be regarded only as an interpolation of these styles, not as their examples.

Drama consists purely of the dialogue. There is almost no author speech except for remarks and scenic orders. However, the characters’ speech does not recreate the conversational style in full. The conversation is shortened and relays the norms of the language of a certain period. The language of the play is always stylistically worked out and preserves the norms of the literary English language.

The media style has the written (newspaper, essay, article style) and oral (speaker’s style) subcategories. It’s become a separate style in the middle of XVIIIth century. The media style features the individual estimation of the subject and aims for influencing the reader and inspiring the needed reaction. The function of the newspaper style is an estimation and discussion of the facts that are relayed in the brief articles.

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The newspaper articles are divided into headlines, critical essays, satirical pieces. The specificity of the newspaper article is the usage of the emotionally tinted words (scummy politicians, vital importance, light and sincere).

The basic goal of the media style is to influence the social opinion, to persuade the reader or spectator that the given interpretation is the only correct one and to prompt him or her to take the described point of view.

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The media style features the straight and logical syntactic structure, the frequent usage of the conjunctions and a thorough breakdown of the paragraphs. The emotional call is implemented by the usage of the emotionally tinted words.

The stylistic methods, as a rule, are traditional; the individual element is not obvious. The laconic outline of the ideas is another specific feature of the media style that sometimes makes its primary feature.

That is a house built by Jack… -

The multifunctional building providing for the different

forms of life has been built.

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An essay represents the personal idea development by the author. The language features of the newspaper essay are briefness, direct address, abundance of the conjunctions, usage of the emotional words, usage of comparison and set metaphors.

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In the English cultural tradition, the newspapers always played an important role. The first English newspaper appeared in XVIIth century and quickly gained the popularity. A special tradition of the “morning newspaper” had been developed. That is why the language of the newspaper editions has acquired its own features and a special “newspaper style” has been developed. This style does not feature the author’s estimation of the events or facts. There are no emotional words or colorful idioms. Rather, it is a style of the news clips bearing an informative function. The author’s opinion is relayed in the commenting essays, editorial columns. These materials contain the personal point of view.

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The newspaper style is marked by the usage of the political and economic terms and clichés, abbreviations and neologisms. Its grammar features complex syntactic constructions, due to the necessity to relay briefly a large number of facts.

The merkelianism has become a common European political

approach recently; not only in the states of the European Union

but also in some countries of Eastern Europe. 

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choose an appropriate writing style

The function of the newspaper headlines is the attraction of the reader’s attention while relaying the main idea of the article. It is reached by the usage of the provoking questions, rhetoric questions, double-meaning expressions and so on. In the headlines, the articles and link-verbs are often dropped, for saving the place.

Europe will become older in twenty years – the demographic

indexes fall down.

The journalist can pick different linguistic means for relaying his or her own opinion by means of the newspaper article. It can be doubt in the fact or its interpretation, an assertion, a gradual development of the specific point of view etc. By using certain grammar constructions (for example, a Passive Voice), an author might relieve an actor from the responsibility or, to the contrary, to indicate the one to blame. Learn the things the Passive form of the Verb can do with your sentences! Say the things the way you need! It is also possible to develop a system of hints by means of different stylistic methods and usage of different lexis.

The liberal forces inspired the mass disorder in Berlin.

The mass disorder has been started in Berlin today.

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The official style is a style of the official documents and correspondence. The usage of this style allows providing a clear and comprehensive information. Stylistically, it is implemented by the abundance of the stereotypic clichés.

Dear Ms. Veger,

We beg to inform your submission has been well received.

We shall inform about the results of the examination.

Faithfully yours,

Orton college

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This style is used in the diplomatic agreements, official documents, military prescriptions, commercial correspondence. Its main function is the reaching of understanding between the parties that take part in the communication. The official style features many set clichés (considering that, beg your understanding, on behalf of etc.) The official style’ roots come from the times of the Ancient Rome, that is why, it features a lot of Latin words and expressions (sub rosa, ad hoc). The French etiquette of XVIIIth century has brought a refinery to the official style, so, today many French words are used in the official correspondence (cliché, R.S.V.P.). The official style often features long compound sentences. One of its peculiarities is also the usage of the Subjunctive Mood. It is often used in the diplomatic communication. Learn the principles of usage of the Subjunctive Mood in English and prepare the ground for your future diplomatic career!

The business style had been a part of the official style for a long time. Due to the globalization process and increase of the international commercial operations, the specific business English style has been developed. Its main features are briefness, usage of the simple sentences and constructions, usage of the words in their basic meaning. This style features many elements of the conversational style.

We have ordered a lot from you recently. Wish

to place another order now.

Sometimes, in order to adjust your correspondence style and make your message more business-like, you need to introduce the changes to your text. Take a notion of all the possible text changes and perform a professional rewrite!

In the official and business styles, many emotionally tinted words are used as the forms of the polite address (dear, truly, faithfully), rejection (regret to inform), approval (delighted to advise). At the same time, being used in such a function, these words and expressions lose their emotional meaning (pleased to inform, have the honor to address).

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The official and business styles also have the common subcategories marked by the usage of certain wording and syntax. They differ by the area of their usage. These are the financial style (to transmit the funds, to invoice the customer), the legal style (liability, court hearing, letter of attorney), the diplomatic style (to ratify an agreement, to express the concern, a rout). In all the subcategories, the abbreviations and symbols are used (JE (joint enterprise), M.P. (Member of Parliament), USD (United States dollar)). The abbreviations are often used in the military documentation where they make a part of the military code.

As to the military style, it uses the words in the first meaning only (a tank (war machine), an order (an obligatory prescription), affirmative (I will do it)). Check the ways the military language stands out among the other sub-styles.

As we see, the English language styles make a complex system of the area and ways of use of the language. The styles differ by the area of their implementation, mode of usage (oral / written), rigidity of the structure (formal / informal). At the same time, all the styles use the core of the English language – its neutral style. The difference between the styles lays in the choice of the language means (lexical, syntactic, phonetic, pragmatic).

The language changes continually. Developing the individual style one also contributes to the development of other styles. Upon some period, a certain style might be on the edge of vanishing (newspaper style), and another one might appear (an IT style). For the stylistically correct usage of the English language, it is important to know the particulars of each style and its area of usage.

Develop your own English style with the Essay-Editor! Doubt your ability? See how many options to enhance your English we offer on our blog! Check the best articles now:

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