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HomeRants > Writing with a genre. > A genre has an agreed-upon tone.


Can I stretch the style?

Your challenge, with style

A genre has an agreed-upon tone.

If you're writing an opinion piece for a webzine, you may feel obliged to include some embarrassingly intimate personal details, a strong emotional appeal, and a sprinkling of intriguingly irrational exclamations. You're adapting your tone to the genre.

But if you're writing a procedure you are probably going to write in a neutral, almost flat voice, ordering readers about with corporate authority.

Each genre has its expected style.

You could, of course, write a procedure in prose that is emotionally lush, but you would be moving toward the boundary of the genre. When you write a FAQ, for instance, you know, just because you have read a bunch of them, what tone is expected.


Writing in a genre (Full chapter from Hot Text, in PDF, 770K, or about 13 minutes at 56K)

Can I stretch the style?

Sure, you can stretch the style, and you should.

Adapt the tone for the particular audience, their tasks, goals, and dreams.

Press to include your own observations, feelings, attitudes, because you are on the Web, and you are aspiring to actual one-on-one contact with another individual.

But recognize that a genre's style has its own boundaries.

Your challenge, with style

The formalist always insists that you should maintain the conventional tone, in any genre. But really your job is just to figure out what that conventional tone is, then bend it, twist it, expand it, taking it right up to the limit.

The limit, of course, is that break point after which you are no longer writing within the genre--you have entered the realm of parody, pastiche, or joke.

OK, but at that point you are probably no longer responding to the audience's original question.


In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.
-Oscar Wilde

What genre does your audience want from you?


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