Developing a Brilliant Writing Style

Are you still struggling to find a writing style that is your own? Do you feel as though your writing lacks character or is not compelling enough? If so, don’t worry — it’s all too common for writers to feel this way. You don’t need to be the next Shakespeare or Nabokov to have a terrific sense of prose and word choice. The following six tips should fill that void.

  1. Use Powerful Adjectives

Adjectives are words that describe a noun or another adjective. If you struggle with adverbs, the following section might come in handy.  Strong adjectives are those that enhance meaning and give your writing personality, like these strong examples from Dostoevsky’s The Gambler: “He was tall, lean and dark, his eyes glittering beneath his brows with a cold light; there was something harsh and hard about his mouth. The face was not handsome, but it had a concentrated, almost fierce expression.” And these from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler: “His thin lips were drawn together in an expression of infinite suffering. His pale grayish eyes shone with the light of despair.”

  1. Use Strong Verbs

Strong verbs are those that give power to your writing.  They work exceptionally well with strong adjectives that also describe a noun.  Besides, they are more likely to make readers start reading your writing right away. Consider this example from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick: “His was the front of a man walking toward the world and pitying it, but as he went along his heart grew harder and harder, and every year added to its armor of steel.”

  1. Use Active Verbs

Active verbs give your writing energy; it’s best to use them instead of passive.  Write as if you are taking action, rather than describing something as it happened passively. Consider these examples from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment: “I was at the window.” “He was lying in bed looking at me.”

  1. Use the Right Verb Tense

Though some writers indeed use the past tense only for emphasis (and it’s perfectly fine to do so), most readers expect the correct tense from you. If you’re unsure about something, ask yourself: Was it happening now? Or was it happening in the past? When possible, use the future tense in place of verbs with a passive voice.  Here are some examples of the correct tense:

“I am working.”  “He is eating breakfast.”  “We were walking home.”  “You are reading this essay.”  “My grandfather was once a king.”

  1. Use Strong Adjectives Over Stronger Adjectives

If you have ever written a book, you may be familiar with the idea of a sequel. When your book gets popular, there’s often pressure to publish a second one.  See that adjective “popular” in the previous sentence? It’s a strong adjective — one that describes the noun “book.”  Now, a sequel to your book may also become popular, but is it always going to be better than the first one? Probably not.  More popular doesn’t mean better. If you try to make it better, it might end up weaker. Adjectives are similar – you don’t want to “upgrade” them from strong adjectives to stronger adjectives.

In other words, your first adjective should be stronger than any adjective that follows it. Here’s an example of a weak sentence: “It was a hot day.”  “It was the hottest day of the year.”  “It was the hottest day of my life.”  You get the idea.

  1. Use Short Sentences

I once read a writing tip that suggested it’s best not to use more than three clauses in a sentence; most readers won’t be able to keep up with you.  Is it true? Yes, but only if you’re not going for dramatic effect. If you’ve ever read Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, you’ll recognize that it’s written in tercets – three-line stanzas. Many of the poems by William Blake also work in threes.  You don’t need to be so formal, but it helps when you’re trying to communicate a complex thought with only a handful of words.  Here’s another example of effective tercets: “Our future is within us; we have the power to create it.”


This list isn’t exhaustive, but it should help you develop a writing style that is individual and powerful.  Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t write in the same manner as any other writer.  You don’t need to be great to produce a fine body of work – all you need is to finish what you start.  And remember: The best writing advice comes from your own experiences.  It’s best not to imitate another writer, no matter how good he or she may be.

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