How a writer puts words together to express meaning is as important as what the writer says. This lesson shows you how to analyze the style of a piece of writing in order to get a better understanding of what the writer means.
Style?” you ask. “What does style have to do with reading comprehension?”
Actually, style has a good deal to do with reading comprehension. Just as writers use different structures to organize their ideas and information, they also use different styles to express their ideas and information. Thus, the more aware you are of the elements of style, the more successfully you can determine a writer’s purpose and understand his or her ideas.
Style is also important because it is often what attracts us to, or repels us from, certain writers or types of writing. Though an awareness of style might not make us change our taste, it can at least help us appreciate different writers and different styles.
Style: a distinctive way of writing or speaking or doing something; the manner in which something is done.
Ø What is style?
Style, in writing, generally consists of three elements:
1. Sentence structure
2. Degree of detail and description
3. Degree of formality
Diction is also an aspect of style, but because diction is so essential to meaning, it had its own lesson in this book.
Ø Sentence Structure
Looking at sentence structure means looking at the type of sentences the writer has used.
Ø Degree of Detail and Description
When you look at degree of detail and description, ask two things:
1. How specific is the author? Does he write “dog” (general) or “Labrador retriever” (specific detail)? Does she write “some” (general) or “three and a half pounds” (specific detail)?
2. How much description does the author provide? Does he write “Mr. B is my manager” (nondescriptive) or “Mr. B, my manager, is a tall man with piercing eyes and a mustache” (descriptive)? Or, does he go even further: “Mr. B, my manager, is six foot ten with eyes that pierce like knives and a mustache like Hitler’s” (very descriptive)? Try your hand at deciding whether words are specific and descriptive or general and nondescriptive.
Ø Degree of Formality
The degree of formality of a piece of writing has to do with how formal or casual the writer’s language is.
Ø How the Three Elements of Style Work Together
Look at how these three elements of style work together in the following two letters. Both convey essentially the same information, but they are written in radically different styles. Read the letters carefully and then list your observations. What do you notice that’s different between these two letters?
Ø The Effect of Description and Detail
In business, what some people call “flowery” style—lots of description and detail—is almost never appropriate. Why? Because in business, as they say, “time is money,” so readers don’t want to spend time reading lengthy descriptions or extensive detail. They just want the facts: when the meeting will be held and where; what the new product is designed to do and how much it costs; how the new training manual is coming along. In most cases, the more straightforward, the better.
Other times, however, when they want readers to imagine a situation or to experience something through language, writers need a “flowery” style. That is, they need a high degree of description and detail. The following two paragraphs show the difference. Both describe the same appointment, but in two very different styles. One is written in a style appropriate to business and only records the facts. The other describes the meeting in a style appropriate for general readers interested in the feelings of the people involved.
Style, as you can see, is an important aspect of reading comprehension. It can tell us about the writer’s relationship to the reader; it can distance us with its objectivity or draw us in with its description and detail. As readers, we tend to react strongly to style, often without knowing why. But now you do know why, and you can use that knowledge to help you understand what you read.
NB: Tugas Reading Comprehension