1

Is there a name for a style of writing where the author "speaks" to an imaginary reader in an imaginary conversation?

Example

When you write for web, you should keep your paragraphs short and your sentences shorter.

But, why? That's not what I learned in school. Long sentences mean you're smart, right?

Well, it's harder to read on a screen. Shorter paragraphs and sentences are easier to read. If your content is easier to read, a user is more likely to keep reading. If a user keeps reading, they're more likely to use your service or at least remember your name and brand.

In the example above, the first and third paragraphs are the author, and the second is the _______? Every time I've seen this in writing, the author has referred to the speaker as "imaginary reader," but I feel that this specific style should have a name.

If it were music, I'd call it "call and response" (think "Dueling Banjos"), but the term doesn't specifically refer to the writing device.

  • I should call what you quoted a "monologue with interjections", possibly a "monologue with interjections from an imaginary reader" if I wasn't opposed to the length. Maybe someone has a more succinct name for it? – Born2Smile Sep 3 '15 at 18:27
  • It's not quite epistolary but surely there's no reason it could not be called conversational. – Andrew Leach Sep 3 '15 at 18:30
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach In a pinch, I'd call it conversational, but that usually describes the tone of writing versus the style itself. – VampDuc Sep 3 '15 at 18:32
  • As a teenager I sneaked a peek at a novel my mother had left in some strange corner of the house, and it turned out be written in second-person singular throughout: "You did this, and then you realized it was a dumb idea because when you did it three years ago it blew up in your face..." To my surprise, random checks showed more of this, likely the whole novel. And I'm not surprised that my mother laid the book aside, because the result was a cloying read. OP's example is a tutorial though. – cardiff space man Sep 3 '15 at 18:52
  • Not sure if you edited your answer on account of my comment, so I'll just say that I still would call it a "monologue with interjections" even with the edits. The form that is common in theatre as well, but I couldn't tell you the official name for it. – Born2Smile Sep 3 '15 at 18:53
2

The style of writing you describe is 'interlocutory':

interlocutory, adj. and n.

A. adj.

1. a. Of the nature of, pertaining to, or occurring in, dialogue or conversation.

(from the OED)

Uses as a noun are obsolete; therefore, the name of the writing style or a work in that style will be expressed as a phrase: for example, he used an interlocutory style, and for a book, it was an interlocutory work. Note, however, that adjectival uses such as the style was interlocutory work also. Additionally, for uses as a noun, 'interlocution' is a possibility, and is not obsolete in the sense you describe.

interlocution, n.

....

  1. The action (on the part of two or more persons) of talking or replying to each other.

a. Talk, conversation, discourse, dialogue.

(op. cit.)

Historical quotes given for 'interlocution' illustrate the use describing a writing style. One example is

1782 J. Warton Ess. on Pope (new ed.) II. xii. 410 He is for ever introducing these little interlocutions, which give his satires and epistles an air so lively and dramatic.

(op. cit.)

Finally, in your example-sentence-with-blank, 'interlocutor' works well:

... the first and third paragraphs are the author, and the second is the interlocutor.

0

I don't know how much of a "style" it is if you are referring to its use as a current fashion, since it's been going on for thousands of years, but what you're describing is a dramatic rhetorical device called hypophora (sometimes anthypophora). It is usually seen as a monologue in which the speaker (or writer) asks questions and answers them.

Here's a short example from Seneca, taken from Sylvae Rhetorica's entry on anthypophora:

"But there are only three hundred of us," you object. Three hundred, yes, but men, but armed, but Spartans, but at Thermoplyae: I have never seen three hundred so numerous.

Ward Farnsworth (Classical English Rhetoric) lumps hypophora (asking questions and then answering them) with prolepsis (raising objections and countering them) together in the same chapter, because the distinction between them often gets blurred, and "they sometimes sound alike and serve similar purposes."

  • 1
    But is there any distinction between the author asking the question and the author creating a character to ask the question? For example, if I'd started my third paragraph with, "Well, Bob--can I call you Bob?--it's harder to read on a screen..," would it still be hypophora/anthypophora? – VampDuc Sep 3 '15 at 19:04
  • Hmm, I think in that case it might be simply a literary conceit that employs the devices I mentioned. For an example of this, read about (or just read) Archy and Mehitabel. – Robusto Sep 3 '15 at 19:08
0

Writing in which the author addresses an imaginary person is a form of apostrophe.

I'm sure there are people willing to debate the legitimacy of including an address to an imaginary reader under that rubric, especially since it is an informal form of "one", and there's reason to consider it not an address.

protected by JEL Dec 17 '17 at 19:33

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.