By Jeanne Marie Leach


Style, when referring to writing, can be an elusive element in fiction. Writing style is the accumulation of all the writing rules you will us as the author. The writing style reveals the choices you made in syntactical structures, diction, figures of thought and speech.

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) is the preferred guide to these rules in fiction writing and editing. Do not use the AP Style for fiction.

The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style (CWMS) further delineates style for the Christian author, and includes elements not found in the CMOS. It includes many good references that will be used by Christian authors and editors.

  • Biblical terms that should be capitalized
  • Biblical abbreviations
  • Capitalizing deity pronouns and which should never be capitalized
  • Correct usage of terms such as “born again”
  • Christian holidays, feasts and liturgical year – calendar placement, spelling, and styling
  • The King James Version’s contributions to modern idioms
  • Religious jargon that are almost cliché and should be used sparingly

There is so much more in the CWMS that I cannot list it all here, but these are the ones I use most.

Fiction style tends to use a more relaxed sentence structure. With fiction you can:

  • Begin some sentences with conjunctions, just not in consecutive sentences, and only if it bridges the previous sentence and the current sentence together,
  • End sentences with prepositions,
  • Use contractions, even in the narrative sections; NOT using them actually creates a stiff, formal style not conducive to fiction,.
  • Use plural pronouns with singular antecedents that many people see as incorrect. However, according to Grammatically Correct, by Anne Stillman, page 254:

“Some controversy swirls around using they when the antecedent is one of the indefinite pronouns each, every, either, neither, everybody, everyone, somebody, someone, nobody, no one, anybody or anyone. Despite some of these pronouns actually being plural in meaning, they are all technically classified as singulars. Many people use them as plurals, however, either because they don’t realize this is incorrect or, again, because of a conscious reluctance to use he when both males and females are involved.”

So when someone comments about a writer’s style, you now know they’re talking about the rules they use regularly when they write. Voice is a whole different ballgame.