One of the most amazing aspects of the IEW method is the intentional training in writing style. What is style? As Andrew Pudewa, creator of the IEW method, explains, “Style is not what you say, but how you say it.”

The IEW method trains students in two core aspects of writing: structure and style. Structure in writing is like the frame of a building. It is how the writing is put together. The structure of writing varies depending on, for instance, whether it is a story or a report, inventive or researched. Different types of writing call for different structures. In Writing to Learn classes, the students learn structures that can be used for a multitude of writing tasks.

But the style of writing is like the decor of the rooms of the building. It is how the author relays the content, regardless of the structure. The IEW method intentionally trains students to use a variety of style techniques so that the writing, regardless of the structure, is engaging and enjoyable. The style aspect also emphasizes the importance of choosing the best words to relay exactly what the students want to communicate.

People usually want to write the way they talk, with their own unique voice, a noble goal but one that, without training, is rarely realized. The reason is simple: when we talk, people can see our faces, hear our tone of voice, see our gestures. So much communication occurs through the non-verbal element of body language. All of the body language is lost in writing. All meaning must be communicated solely through the words, which is why writing well is so difficult. Without exact and powerful words, writing is flat and uninspiring.

The style techniques are introduced slowly, beginning in the second class of Level 1, and increasing in complexity all the way through Level 3. As each style technique is introduced, the students use it in every subsequent paragraph. This continual practice helps to ingrain the techniques. Even though at first the style tools may make writing sound somewhat awkward, with practice the students are able to use them naturally. When they have fully internalized the techniques, the writing sounds authentic and natural, bursting with the meaning they want to communicate.

For an example of one of the early Level 1 techniques, consider the Quality Adjective Dress-up. Students tend to use “cheap” adjectives, like bad, good, pretty, nice, and big, words that are “cheap” because they can be used for anything and everything. That’s fine when communicating verbally, when people can see and hear the speaker. But “cheap,” all-purpose words communicate almost nothing in writing. The Quality Adjective Dress-up trains students to find “expensive” adjectives that communicate exactly what they mean, words that are not all-purpose but instead very specific.

Below is an example of one of my own Quality Adjective Dress-up exercises, using Georgia’s fascinating state tree, the live oak, as the subject. I had such a good time writing this one!

Style: it’s definitely the most fun challenging, powerful, personal part of writing.

© 2019 Jennifer Kimbrell. All rights reserved.

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