Kate Ronald’s piece “Style” addresses a hidden agenda of hers: teaching her students how to write with a convincing and interesting style. Ronald admits that though she does not teach her students how to polish their individual writing styles, she often judges their papers with style in mind. Feeling this judgement was unfair, Ronald set out to teach the basics of writing with well-developed style in this piece. 

Ronald defines good style as writing cleverly with a distinctive voice. When one writes with style, the piece does not sound like there’s “no one home”, as Ronald puts it. Style is hard to define but easy to recognize. Ronald gives of an example of identifying style from a class she taught. She says a student envied another student’s writing, saying she wanted to “write the way Paul does”. The way Paul writes in this situation is Paul’s own personal writing style. When a writer has good style, like Paul, he or she will include concrete details, an expanded and well-applied vocabulary, a developed rhythm and cadence, and a hint of humor. The reader should enjoy reading a piece that is written with good style. 

The time I personally began trying to break the mold and stop playing it safe with my writing was senior year of high school in my A.P. literature and composition course. For me, playing it safe meant playing by the rules of high school writing (confining my papers to the standard five paragraph blueprint form, sticking to the given prompts, and using strictly academic language). I started breaking these rules senior year. Instead of a five paragraph essay composed of an introduction, conclusion, and three body paragraphs, I would write a ten paragraph essay with a derived thesis and a less summarization-based introduction. I also began meeting with teachers to create my own prompts to use for essays in lieu of the given ideas. I found my writing stood out better if I made it more original and wrote about topics, themes, and ideas that I derived myself. I also began taking risks in my language usage and vocabulary. I occasionally included sentence fragments and questions in my academic writing. Surprisingly enough, these unconventional elements improved my writing, and I began to develop a distinct voice and style. 

I typically lean towards a more personal and connected style in my writing and often have difficulty disconnecting myself from the writing and being objective, even when objectivity is called for. I find it especially hard to disconnect in rhetorical pieces, speeches, and persuasive essays. Those are genres, however, that the rhetor should remain connected in. Pieces such as research papers and factual presentations should probably be kept more objective. I am better at remaining objective when producing factual writing, though I still feel I keep a bit too much personalized voice. 

At the end of her paper, Ronald gives four suggestions to improve style: write outside of school, practice cutting unnecessary words out of your drafts, read your drafts out loud to real people, and write about your own writing style. Of these, I consciously try to do three. I always practice cutting unnecessary words out of drafts. This strategy was taught and enforced in the same A.P. literature course I referenced earlier. I also always read drafts out loud, and I make a conscious effort to read them to people whenever I can find someone available who doesn’t mind listening. I also do try to write outside of school. I try to submit something to most literary magazines I get email notifications about through the English department and sigma tau delta, the honors English fraternity I’m in. I have never, however, written about my own writing style. That is an exercise I definitely need to try. I can see how it could help solidify and identify voice. 

In response to this piece I would say Ronald’s points are accurate but not surprising. I feel like every student high school age and above knows they are being judged on style, though no teacher ever gives a formal lesson on what style is or how to develop it. Her tips for developing style are useful, and I think I will try employing them more often. The tip to write about your own style seems particularly novel and interesting. It is definitely worth a try.