Bedford/St. Martin's virtuaLit Interactive Fiction Tutorial Notebook VIEW SEND
Fiction in Depth Approaches and Contexts
Select a StoryElements of FictionCultural ContextsCritical Approaches
Point of View
Style, Tone, and Language
Symbolism, Allegory, and Image


The English language offers a vast array of choices in sentence structure, phrasing, vocabulary, verb tense, and voice. Fiction writers use this variety to their advantage in crafting a thought, description, or action. Different language choices can create a huge range of styles and tones for any given expression. These different styles and tones give the story its unique meaning. In most cases, a story’s way of being told is at least as significant as its content.

Let’s take, for example, the somewhat common experience of getting a parking ticket. Here are several ways the parking ticket experience might be expressed by the recipient.

The policeman gave me a parking ticket.

Some bored cop tagged me with another ticket.

Someone had slipped the ticket under my windshield wiper like a blade slipped under a rib.

A citation for violation of parking regulations had been affixed to my car.

I got another &*%@# ticket!

Another week goes by, another parking ticket stuck to the car—what else
is new?

These various expressions create different emotional and conceptual stances relative to the ticketing experience. In other words, the language style of each expression adds its unique spin to the basic information.

For the following expression, use the drop-down menu to alter the wording and create a new, unique expression.

The myriad forms of discourse encountered in contemporary society require a matrix of relational strategies.

Experiment with the choices until you create an expression that seems stylistically different from the original. Compare and contrast the styles of the original sentence and your altered version by analyzing how the specific wording affects the styles.

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