Style, tone, and word choice in writing are all connected to one another. Style is the way in which a writer writes, while tone is the attitude of a writer towards a subject or audience. Style and tone are conveyed through word choice - the specific words a writer uses, also known as diction. There are three main types of diction - formal, informal, and popular diction.
Diction, or word choice, is used to convey the particular style and tone of the writer.
Formal diction is used in academic writing of a serious or substantial nature, and is rarely used in everyday speech. It is used when writing about scholarly topics and generally employs a more advanced vocabulary to convey this serious tone.
Pundits were vocal in their disapproval towards the recently implemented federal economic policy.
While neither of these sentences are incorrect, you would be more likely to come across the second sentence in an academic paper, while the first sentence would be out of place in that same paper.
The development of the personal computer in 1971 set the precedent for the fast pace of the modern world.
Informal diction is the language we use in everyday life. It includes abbreviations, contractions, slang, dialect, and colloquialisms. It is best to avoid incorrect spellings that may be colloquially popular (i.e. alot vs a lot) in your writing.
Popular diction is the language you would read in a newspaper or magazine. It falls between formal and informal diction. While it does not use slang or colloquialisms, it caters to the average reader or listener, so it will generally use less complex words.
Style is a bit more ambiguous to define, but it determines the mood of a piece of literature and is made up of many parts of the author's writing. Specifically, style uses diction, tone, grammar, figurative language, and sentence structure to influence the style of their work. Combining all of these elements in varying ways is the best way to create a work that truly stands out.
For example, let's consider the following information presented in three drastically different ways:
Each of these sentences could describe the same scene, but subtle shifts in point of view, sentence structure, and figurative language greatly change the style of each scene.
Tone is simply defined as the view of the writer or speaker towards the subject they are writing or speaking about. Tone is intimately intertwined with diction, as simply changing the words used can greatly change the tone of a passage.
For example, we could describe the same scene with a variety of tones:
The tone of the first sentence is patriotic, lofty, and grandiose. The second sentence paints a more cynical picture and has a biting, sarcastic tone (particularly emphasized by the use of quotation marks for victorious).
Understanding the differences in tone to a work of prose is incredibly important to understanding what the writing is trying to accomplish and how the author feels towards the subject.