8.4 Considering how style affects an argument

7 min readjanuary 21, 2023



AP English Language ✍🏽

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Welcome to topic 4 of Unit 8! Here, we’ll discuss how the writing style used in an argument can impact how it is perceived. First, we’ll go through what exactly makes up a writer’s style. Then, we’ll discuss what writing style may signal about the writer to the audience.

Components of Writing Style

A writer’s style is comprised of a variety of elements that come together to form a distinct literary signature. The main ones we’ll be focusing on in this study guide are word choice (diction), syntax, and structure, since those are the components referenced in the AP Lang CED.


Word choice is a major factor in style, as the writer makes deliberate decisions about which words to use and how to craft them into meaningful sentences. Reminder: diction refers to the choice of words and the style of expression used by a writer in their work. It is an important aspect of writing style because it helps to create an impactful impression on the reader. The use of precise and descriptive words can help to enliven the writing, making it more engaging for the reader. 
For example, instead of simply writing "The character was angry," a student could use a more descriptive phrase such as "The character seethed with rage." This allows the reader to better visualize the scene and creates a more vivid image. 
Additionally, the use of a variety of words can help to create a more sophisticated writing style. Using a thesaurus to find synonyms for common words can help to make the essay more interesting and engaging. For example, instead of repeatedly using the word "said" to express dialogue, a student could use words such as "exclaimed," "stated," or "cried." This can help to create a more unique writing style and make the essay more interesting to read.
In conclusion, diction is an important aspect of writing style in an English class essay. The use of descriptive words and a variety of words can help to create an impactful impression on the reader and make the essay more engaging.


Syntax, the structure of language, is also important, as it shapes how a reader interprets the words and can be used to create certain rhythms, emphasize certain ideas, and convey tone. Syntax includes word order, verb tense, punctuation, and any other elements of writing that affect the meaning of the essay. 
Using longer versus shorter structures is one way you can see syntax at work. Sentences that are too long and complex can be difficult to understand and can make the essay seem disjointed. For example, 
"Although the dog had run quickly, the person was unable to catch it due to its agility" 
is an example of a sentence that may be too long and complex in some scenarios. A simpler sentence such as 
"The person could not catch the dog because it was too fast" 
might be more effective in conveying the same idea.
Word order can be used to emphasize certain things and not others. For example, when a student writes a sentence with a list of items, the order of the items can affect how the reader understands the sentence. A simple example of this is:
 "I had oranges, apples, and bananas for breakfast"
"I had bananas, apples, and oranges for breakfast" 
The first version of the list makes it appear like oranges were the “main” breakfast item while the second version makes it appear like bananas were.
Finally, when writing a persuasive essay, the placement of certain words or phrases can help the writer make a stronger argument. For example, if a student were writing an essay in support of a new law, they might end their sentence with "It is time for a change" instead of "It is time to stay the same" to emphasize the point of their argument.


Finally, conventions are the accepted standards of language, such as grammar and punctuation, that the writer must adhere to in order to be understood by their audience. For instance, you might use a comma to separate two independent clauses, or a semicolon to connect two related sentences that have a common idea. Proper use of each type of punctuation can help make the essay more organized and easier to understand.
Capitalization is another important convention that can make an essay more effective. In AP Lang essays, it is important to use capital letters at the beginning of sentences, proper nouns, and titles. Proper capitalization helps to make the essay more polished and professional, which can make a good impression on the reader.
Finally, proper spelling and sentence structure are important conventions that help to ensure an essay is understandable and free of errors. Therefore, the reader can have an enjoyable and effortless experience while reading the essay.
When all of these components come together in a unique way, they create the individual style of a writer.

Types of Writing Styles

Here are some types of writing styles you might employ while writing:
1. Narrative: A narrative style of writing tells a story, often from one person's point of view. The goal of a narrative is to engage readers by evoking powerful emotions and feelings. 
  • Example: "Once upon a time there lived a poor boy who dreamed of becoming a knight." 
2. Descriptive: A descriptive style of writing uses vivid language to paint a picture in the reader's mind. To do this, the writer must use words that evoke strong visual and sensory images. This can include descriptions of objects, places, people, and events. Longer sentences and specific diction can contribute to this writing style.
  • Example: "The sun was setting on the horizon, its golden rays spilling over the rolling hills." 
3. Expository: An expository style of writing is used to explain or inform in a clear and concise manner. 
  • Example: "The heart is an organ that pumps blood throughout the body. It is composed of four chambers and is responsible for providing oxygen to the body's cells." 
4. Persuasive: A persuasive style of writing is used to convince the reader to agree with a certain point of view. 
  • Example: "The government should invest in renewable energy sources to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels." 
5. Argumentative: An argumentative style of writing is used to present a logical argument in support of a certain idea or opinion.
  • Example: "Monolingualism is a disadvantage in our globalized, multicultural world.” 
6. Creative: A creative style of writing is used to express ideas in a unique and imaginative way. To do this, the writer must be able to use vivid descriptions and figurative language to evoke emotion and create a mental image in the reader’s mind.
  • Example: "The stars twinkled in the night sky, like a thousand wishes waiting to be granted."
Of these six styles, the ones you will most likely use while essay writing are argumentative and expository. However, I encourage you to consider using narrative or descriptive occasionally. Writing in different styles to express different ideas can elevate your essay and show the reader/grader that you can wield diction, syntax, and conventions effectively.

More Strategic Use of Writing Style

One specific example of writing style College Board highlights in the AP Lang CED is signaling a “complex or ironic perspective” though stylistic choices. This can be a great way to create a contrast between what the reader expects or values and what is actually presented in the text. For example, you might use a sarcastic tone to express an opinion that is contrary to the reader’s beliefs, or you could present an argument in a lighthearted way to make a serious point. By leveraging the reader’s understanding of the text, you can create an unexpected reaction that will make them reconsider their own beliefs and values.
More generally, a writer's use of language, tone, and syntax can either enhance or detract from the overall strength of their argument. If your argument is well-crafted and concise, with strong rhetoric, it's more likely to be successful than a long, wordy one with weak language. Plus, using an appropriate tone and voice can really engage your reader and make them receptive to your ideas. So be sure to choose your words carefully and thoughtfully - it could be the difference between success and failure.
By exploring the various writing styles available, readers will be able to determine which style is best suited for their particular argument.


A writer's choice of words, their tone, and the way they structure their sentences all have an impact on how effective their argument is. If the language is too complex, or the tone too formal, it can detract from the argument and make it hard to follow. On the other hand, when the language is clear and the tone appropriate, it can really give the argument an extra boost. It all comes down to the writer knowing their audience, and using the right words and conventions to make their point.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🤔Exam Skills
🥇Unit 1 – Claims, Reasoning, & Evidence
🗂️Unit 2 – Organizing Information for a Specific Audience
👀Unit 3 – Perspectives & How Arguments Relate
🔚Unit 4 – How writers develop arguments, intros, & conclusions
🎀Unit 5 – How a writer brings all parts of an argument together
👥Unit 6 – Position, Perspective, & Bias
🥊Unit 7 – Successful & Unsuccessful Arguments
😎Unit 8 – Stylistic Choices
😈Unit 9 – Developing a Complex Argument
📚Study Tools

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