English, Department of


Date of this Version



2019 by the National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved.


College Composition and Communication 71(2), pp. 241-267


I have been moved to write a serious article about teaching style not because I have great and earth-shaking method to impart, but in some sense because I do not, even after years of study—including the small bit of empirical research at the core of this article. Style, as it turns out, remains as difficult, complex, and ultimately intuitive as most of the rest of writing. I hope, ultimately, to encourage writing teachers to focus more attention on style, basing approaches on what we already know rather than waiting and hoping for some flawless system to materialize. Indeed, by the end of the article I advocate for quite adventurous approaches, well beyond what the original study had contemplated. After all, we should not hold style to any standard different from the standard to which we hold rhetoric itself. We should actively seek to teach style as a varied but essential aspect of thinking about writing rhetorically, knowing all the while that doing so presents problems as wicked as those we face in daring to teach audience, exigency, process, kairos, and the rest. Meanwhile, as in those areas, we can attend to giving ourselves the best available frame, the most useful suggestions. I hope to help with that much, at least.