Style Diction and Tone: Reading Comprehension Review Study Guide

Updated on Aug 24, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Style Diction and Tone: Reading Comprehension Review Practice Exercises

As you've probably already noticed, there's a lot that goes into writing text, and there are a lot of different things for an active reader to observe. Try not to feel overwhelmed by it all. You just want to get as much information as you can from what you read. The more information you get, the better you understand the writer's intentions.

There are three other important features to writing: style, diction, and tone. These are a little more subtle than point of view, but once you know what they are and how to look for them, you'll be further along the road to becoming a successful, active reader.


Writers develop style to express their ideas. Not everyone enjoys all styles of writing, and style is often a matter of taste. But the style a writer chooses will, like everything else, give you a clue to his or her intentions.


THINK OF WRITING style as being similar to personal style. We all pick different clothes, have different hairstyles, and wear different accessories as a way of expressing ourselves. Well, style in writing, like sentence structure and descriptions, is the way an author expresses himself or herself.

There are four basic elements of style:

  1. sentence structure
  2. degree of detail and description
  3. degree of formality
  4. diction

Sentence Structure

Does the writer use short, simple sentences? Long, complex sentences? Is there a pattern to how the sentences sound to you? Do they all sound the same? Do too many of them start with the same word? Read these two examples. Which has a more pleasing style?

The man with the beard walked into the room. The man was the basketball coach. The man was there to make sure that the basketball team won their game. The man was going to give the team a pep talk.


The bearded man was the coach of the basketball team, and he had just walked into the room to give a pep talk to the team. He was going to make sure they won their game.


WRITE A SERIES of four sentences that all have the same starting word and the same ending word.

Degree of Detail and Description

This element is often explained as the difference between business writing and writing that's intended for pleasure. Ask yourself how specific the author is. How much description does the author use? Read these two examples. Which has the higher degree of detail and description?

Our family lives in a small house on a quiet street. We have a fence around the backyard and big trees in the front.
Our family lives in a small blue house with red shutters on the windows. The house is on a quiet street that's lined with mailboxes and cars parked along the concrete curb. We have a long, brown wooden fence around the large backyard and four huge pine trees in the front.


WRITE TWO DIFFERENT descriptions of the room you're currently in. Make one as descriptive as possible, and make the other simpler.

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