Communication Skills

Writing Style: Plain writing and persuasive writing

The importance of writing style is to help your readers to follow and understand the meanings and concepts embedded in your writing. In his book, Johnson-Sheehan (2002) pointed out that writing styles are effective on the sentence level, on the paragraph level and at the document level.

On the sentence level, writers should pick the right words and forming a sentence easy to read. On the paragraph level, writers should arrange and weave the sentences in a way that the main points are emphasised and easy to read. At the document level, writers should set the appropriate tone and themes to appeal to the “readers’ emotions and value”.

Your writing style is “your tone – your attitude toward your subject, your audience, and yourself – in what you write. Style is who you are and how you reflect who you are, intentionally or unintentionally, in what you write” (Jones, 1997)

There are two different writing styles: the plain style for instruction and demonstration; the persuasive style for persuading people to take action. 

Plain writing style helps readers to understand a situation or a process. Persuasive style is used for motivating readers to agree with your ideas with powerful imagery and emotion. Proper use of plain and persuasive styles in writing could effectively deliver your message and requests to your readers. Overly use of persuasive writing styles could create a “hard selling” impression to your readers and result in demotivation.

The proper use of words and phrases, including the uses of similes, analogies and metaphors, elevating the tone and changing the pace, is important in persuasive writing. The use of similies, analogies and metaphors help readers to create a lively image from the abstract ideas in your writing. 

The effective use of tone and pace could also influence the inner voice of your readers because most people vocalise the words internally when reading. 

Elevating the tone reminds readers of the importance of the points that you are going to make and prepare them to pay attention to it mentally. Write longer sentences will slow down the reading pace of your readers, and shorter sentences will speed up the pace. For proposal writing, Johnson-Sheehan (2002) explained the effects of the faster and slower paces:

“As the pace increases, the readers will naturally feel impelled to do something, because they will sense the problem in rapidly growing worse. On the other hand, if you want the readers to be cautious and deliberate, longer sentences will decrease the intensity of the proposal, giving the readers the sense that there is no need to rush.” (p. 180)

The selection of a writing style on the paragraphs or the document levels (textual) depends on the purpose of the writing (ideational) and the social relationship between the writer and the readers (interpersonal). All business writings incorporate both plain writing and persuasive writing styles to deliver the intended message to the readers. The location and the weight of the plain and the persuasive writing styles in a writing are specific to the different profession-specific norms and goals.


  • Johnson-Sheehan, R. (2002). Writing with Style. In Writing proposals: a rhetoric for managing change (pp. 161–184). essay, New York: Longman.
  • Jones, D. (1998). Technical writing style. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.