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Common Stylistic Errors in Writing: Meaning and Examples

From this article you will learn what stylistic errors are, why they occur and how to avoid them, what the connotations are, and why you need to know about them, common stylistic errors in writing, and, of course, examples.

Stylistic Errors: Meaning

A stylistic error is the use of words, phrases, or constructions that are inappropriate in a given style. It is also a violation of the requirements for accuracy, clarity, and brevity of the writing.

Why Do Stylistic Errors Occur: Two Main Reasons

There are two main reasons why stylistic errors occur:

  • The choice of an incorrect word because of ignorance of the right meaning of a given word or due to confusion with homonyms.

Homonyms are words with the same spelling or pronunciation but have different meanings. Homonyms are also known as multiple-meaning words. 

For example:

1) Accident – an event in which injury or damage is caused in or by a vehicle.

2) Accident – something that happens unexpectedly. 

  • Choosing an informal writing style instead of a formal one and vice versa.

In the scientific writing style, a formal writing style is used, but in the business writing style, it all depends on what you write and to whom (the report is a formal style, but a letter sent to colleagues is informal).

Read also post “What Is Formal and Informal Writing: Characteristics, Key Differences, and Examples”. 

  • And a bonus reason. The informal writing style changes very quickly, so you need to read, and read again!

Stylistic Errors in Writing: What Is Connotation

Another reason for improper word usage is ignorance of connotations.

Connotation is an additional meaning of a word that reflects its emotional and cultural coloring.

Due to connotations, it is often difficult to determine the exact meaning of a word found in a dictionary, e.g.

Examples of Positive and Negative Connotations in Writing

Consider the following four synonyms: economically, stingy, frugally, and tight-fisted. All these words mean the same thing – saving money. But two words have a positive connotation, while the other two have a negative.

The words “economically” and “frugally” have positive connotations. They mean that a person spends money wisely and carefully, trying to save.

And the words “stingy” and “tight-fisted” have negative connotations, which mean that a person is greedy, reluctant to part with money, and his economy is not justified.

Another example of a connotation. Very often we associate human behavior with animals. You have probably guessed what associations will arise with the words “monkey”, “fox”, “tiger” and, of course, “pig”. 


  • sly as a fox;
  • monkey has an association with foolishness or deceitful behavior;
  • tiger means bravery, power, and independence;
  • in literature, a pig has an association with such human attributes as greed, gluttony, and uncleanliness. 


Therefore, when you write down new words in your notes, immediately indicate their negative or positive connotation. It will be enough to put a sign “+” or “-“ next to the word. So it will be easier for you to navigate your vocabulary. 

Of course, there are many neutral words. But some negative words are better not to use at all, so as not to offend your reader.

In addition, I can recommend to you an interesting resource You can type a word and get all the necessary information: the word meaning, synonyms, used in colloquial speech, phrases with this word, etc.

Common Stylistic Errors in Writing with Examples

Common stylistic errors in writing examples
Common stylistic errors in writing: examples

As a summary, we will list the common stylistic errors that can occur in your writing piece:

  1. Cliches

A cliche is a stereotype expression. They are unoriginal, monotonous, and stale, that’s why you should avoid them in your writing. Examples of cliches:

  • Take it or leave it. 
  • Like a kid in a candy store. 
  • The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
  • Driving me crazy. 

2. Style mixing. 

You need to choose the proper writing style for your text. For example, in academic papers, do not use informal speech patterns, or slang.

3. Verbosity, or wordiness. 

Verbosity in the text arises because an excessive number of words are used to express thoughts – unnecessary, repetitive, and similar. 

In most cases, wordiness is caused by pleonasm and tautology. 

Tautology is the repetition of the same or similar words, for example:

  • $500 dollars;
  • recent innovations;
  • sick man sick with a disease;
  • at 4 am in the morning. 

Pleonasm is a figure of speech in which some element of meaning is duplicated, for example:

  • This particular item – this item. 
  • Actual fact – fact. 
  • The sound of the loud music – the loud music. 

4. Filler (or parasite) words. 

The filler words make the text frivolous. They do not carry any valuable information, but only clog the text and distract the reader’s attention from the main idea.

Examples of filler words are:

  • umm, 
  • ahh, 
  • like, 
  • you know, 
  • maybe, 
  • just, 
  • guess, 
  • sort/kind of. 

5. Mixing the vocabulary of different historical eras (anachronism). 

When a word is associated with a certain historical era, but it is “transferred” to another:

  • Knights wore chainmail, trousers, and mittens – Knights wore chainmail, breastplate, and gauntlets. 

6. Confusion with paronyms

Paronyms are words with similar pronunciation or spelling but have different meanings. For example:

  • Affect – Effect. Affect is usually a verb, and it means to impact or change. The effect is usually a noun, it is a result of a change.
  • Artist – Artiste. Artist is a person who creates art, whilst an artiste is a person who displays his skilled art in public (dancers, for example). 

7. The stylistic and semantic mismatch between parts of one sentence. 

Red-haired, fat, and healthy, with a shiny face, the singer Tamaji attracted many as a person with great inner energy.

Better: The huge inner energy of the singer Tamaji, which attracted many, was also reflected in his appearance: massive, with lush red hair, with a face splashing with health.


In a good text, everything should be in moderation: the right style, appropriate tone, and competent presentation of information.

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