Summary of the Formal, Moderate, and Colloquial Styles





Sentences Relatively long and involved;

likely to make considerable use

of parallel, balanced, and periodic

structures; no fragments.

Of medium length, averaging between

fifteen and twenty-five words; mostly

standard structure but with some

parallelism and occasionally balanced

and periodic sentences; fragments rare.

Short, simple structures; mainly

subject-verb-object order; almost

no use of balanced or periodic

sentences; fragments common.

Diction Extensive vocabulary, some

use of learned words; no slang;

almost no contractions or

clipped words.

Ranges from learned to colloquial but

mostly popular words; both abstract

and concrete diction; occasional

contractions and clipped words; may

contain some inconspicuous slang.

Diction limited to popular and

colloquial words, frequent

contractions and clipped words;

frequent use of utility words; more

slang than in moderate style.

Tone Always a serious attitude toward

an important subject; may be

either subjective or objective and

informative or affective; no

attempt to establish closeness

with reader, who is almost never

addressed as "you"; personality

of the writer not conspicuous;

whole tone usually dignified and


Attitude toward subject may be

serious or light, objective or subjective,

informative or affective; relationship

with reader close be seldom intimate;

writer often refers to himself or herself

as "I" and to reader as "you"; but the

range of moderate style is so broad that

it can vary from semiformal to


Attitude toward subject may be

serious or light but is usually

subjective; close, usually intimate,

relation with reader, who is nearly

always addressed as "you"; whole

tone is that of informal conver-


Uses A restricted style used chiefly for

scholarly or technical writing for

experts, or for essays and

speeches that aim at eloquence

or inspiration; a distinguished

style, but not one for everyday use

or practical affairs.

The broadest and most usable style for

expository and argumentative writing

and for all but the most formal of public

speeches; the prevailing style in

nontechnical books and magazines, in

newspaper reports and editorials, in

college lectures and discussions, in all

student writing except some fiction.

Light, chatty writing as in letters to

close friends of the same age; on

the whole, a restricted style that

is inappropriate to most college

writing except fiction.

Taken from Writing With a Purpose (8th ed.) by Trimmer/Sommers. Published by Houghton Mifflin.