Prose Styles – Plainsong and Baroque

In prose, there are two different styles. Plainsong and Baroque. You might have heard of them. Let me explain each one briefly, and provide an example piece of text telling the same story in the two different styles.


Short sentences, not many adjectives and adverbs. Blunt and straightforward.

The little girl came in. She murmured something to the teacher. She left the room running. The teacher announced the secret to the classroom. The girl had a crush on me. They all laughed.


Ornamented. A lot of subordinate clauses. A lot of adjectives and adverbs, Pile on of detail and syllables.

The little girl peeked with scared and longing eyes from the hallway. The teacher turned her humongous body around to look at the girl pacing back and forth behind her. “What is it?” she said. The little girl came in and covered her mouth and the teacher’s ear with her little hands. She murmured a magic spell that transformed the teacher’s face from worry to a devious smile. The little girl disappeared in an instant, her little steps still echoing in the silence of the school hallways during class time. The classroom was silent like the crowd at a funeral, waiting for the priest to speak. And she did speak. “She said she liked the skinny white boy sitting at the front seat,” the teacher said leaning on her desk, her belly fat coming off each side of her chair. Everyone looked at me. I wished they would speed it up and bury me already. Instead, they took their time and ate me alive.

Each style has its use. The former gives the reader a sense of urgency, which is what you want in a fast paced thrill of a story, or a piercing comedy. The latter concentrates on the detail, and puts the reader inside the situation; the writer takes the reader’s hands and shows him the world as the writer sees it, through all five senses.

Now it’s your turn. Practice each style. Which style is best for your project? Which one will help move your story forward? Consider keeping a journal, and reflect upon these questions daily. You can even fix your morning routine while you’re at it.





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