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What is style?

In this video, Dr Louise Nuttall from the University of Huddersfield talks about linguistic style, which is all about choice in language use.
When you first hear the word style, you might think of fashion, the kinds of clothing or hairstyle that we choose for ourselves and that might be considered normal or exceptional at any one moment in time. Style in this sense is all about choice and the effects of these choices, the choices we make and how we dress, for example, might have effects for how other people, view us and how they behave towards us, but style and stylistic choice isn’t limited to fashion of course. We all make choices in every aspect of our lives, including our use of language. You might think about the kinds of linguistic choices that I’m making in speaking to you right now.
The kinds of words I’m choosing to use and the tone I’m adopting. This, too, is a kind of style. It’s a bit different to the style I use when giving a lecture, because the way I use language is affected by the context I’m in. We might also talk about the distinctive style in which magazines such as these are written. This includes the kinds of words and sentence structures chosen, as well as things like images, layouts and fonts And this is all very different to the style of a novel.
And when I start reading, I might notice aspects of the style of this novel that are distinctive or typical for the genre, the historical period or the particular author who wrote it. All these different types of style are the result of the choices that have been made in how text are written and presented. And a bit like our fashion example earlier. These stylistic choices have important effects for the way we interpret and respond to them.

What do we mean when we talk about ‘style’? In this video, Louise Nuttall talks about the idea of linguistic style, which is all about the choices we make in the way we use language and the effects of those choices.

In our first few steps on this course, we will see that the linguistic choices made by producers of texts – whether they are magazines, novels or poetry – are central to how these texts communicate meanings and influence readers emotionally.

What do you think of when you think of style? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Stylistics: Using Linguistics to Explore Texts and Meaning

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