Styles as a Choice (the author’s decision)

Styles as a Choice

            Choice is a very vital element of stylistics since it deals with the variation and options that are available to an author. Language provides its users with more than one choice in a given situation and genre, the writer chooses in expressing thoughts and opinions. Traugett and Pratt (1980) classify the connection between language and choice as the characteristic choices exhibited in a text.

With the writer’s choice, there is a reflection of his ego and the social condition of his environment. In determining the appropriate choice of linguistic elements, two important choice plans are open to the writer: the paradigmatic axis is also referred to as vertical or choice axis while the syntagmatic is horizontal axis. The vertical axis gives a variety of choices between one item and the other item. The writer then chooses the most appropriate word. Thus, the paradigmatic axis is able to account for the given fillers that occupy a particular shot while still maintaining the structure of the sentence. Thus, in the programmatic level, for example, a writer or speaker can choose between ‘start’ and ‘commence’, ‘go’ and proceed (29 – 30).

Charles Hocket opines that ‘roughly speaking, two utterances in the same language which convey approximately the same information but which are different in their linguistic structure can be said to differ in style.’ (556).

For instance, the poem titled Akuzie by Amaka Azuike



The epitome of black beauty!

You come from the warmth of Africa

Africa, home of beautiful Amazons

Tigresses of the savannah

Firm guard like breast

Full rounded hips…

That gorgeous goddess of old

Who fought in muscled men’s are


A symbol of all that is in an African Woman

You are like Moremi of Ife

Cool, confident and courageous… (56)

The poet’s choice of register is strictly feminine, using adjectives in her description of who an African woman is or womanhood. She uses specific register and adjectives like ‘Black beauty’, ‘Tigresses’, ‘rounded hips’, ‘goddess’, ‘heavy thighs’ etc. all these attributes are ascribed to what woman mood is all about.

Style as a Good or Beautiful Writing

Style as a good or beautiful writing considers a text from a highly aesthetic perspective. A text is either said to be elegant and skillfully composed or badly written. In this approach, the need to show a precision of thought in writing is emphasized. This is the view of style which Adam Smith (1963) adopts in his lecture on ‘Rhetoric and Bella letters’ the perfection of style consists in expressing in most concise proper and precise or affection with which the writer designs to communicate to his reader.

To Jonathan Swift, style is a matter of the ability to shot in the right words in the most appropriate position: proper words in proper places make the true definition of a style.

Style as a good writing is exemplified in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart:

After the death of Ekwefi’s second child, Okonkwo had gone to a medicine man, who was also a diviner of the Afe oracle, to inquire what was amiss. This man told him that the child was an Ogbange… (70)

Achebe’s language and diction are well constructed, comprehensive and it agrees with the rules of grammar. He uses some punctuation marks appropriately and capitalization of letters at the beginning of a new sentence and proper nouns like Okonkwo, Afa, Obanje efe.

Style as a Dress of Thought

According to Leech and Short ‘the distinction between what a writer has to say and how it is presented to the reader underlines one of the earliest and most persistent concepts of style: that of style as the dress of thought’. (15)

This metaphor of style as some kind of ‘adornment’ or ‘conveying’ of thought or meaning is no longer widely current, it frequently appears in Renaissance and rationalist pronouncements on style and is implicit.

Style as a dress of thoughts suggests that thoughts and the way of thinking are two different things. The thought may be the same but the way it is being thought may change according to the situation i.e. the words, phrases and language used to shape up the thoughts may vary without making any changes in what is being thought. It is something like what a writer wants to say and how he presents it to the readers.

The dress of thought – Metaphor retains some appropriacy, but only by virtue of an impression; a converse implication of the dress of thought, view is that, it is possible to write in a style, which is the nadir of plainness and neutrality. As Wesley puts it in an age stylistically more austere than that of Lyly:

Style is the dress of thought; a modest dress, neat but not gaudy, will true critics please.

  Style as a Manner of Expression

This is another dualist view which suggests that the content of thought may remain the same but the manner of expression i.e. the words, phrases and the language chosen to express it may slightly change the meaning of the content.

Style as a manner of expression is a more general and tenable version of dualism; that every writer necessarily makes choices of expression and that it is in these choices, in his way of putting things that style resides.

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