I know I got a message from a friend. I could tell by the way they wrote the message, and their vocabulary. There is a name for a personal writing manner, but when I Google to find out, it’s like either a) I’m asking the question in the wrong manner, or Google has no idea that the word exists…

So, it's not lexicon, idiolect, vernacular, 'voice', hyperbole (I have no idea why that keeps bouncing around in my head - I feel that the 'hyp-' maybe relevant).

Any ideas? I knew it up until about 6 months ago, and now it's driving me nuts!

*I understand, and fully appreciate your help. However, I do have to say that the very first thing I tried was to search the internet for synonyms of writing style, personal writing style, personal penmanship etc. The reason I came here is because I needed a deeper level of knowledge (deeper than Wikipedia). Many times have I searched 'Google' for something, only to come up fruitless. Then, I find the exact word/phrase that I am looking for, search for it, and get a million hits. An almost 'Oh, was that what you were looking for..'

The last place I remember hearing it was on a show like Elementary/Sherlock/Death in paradise, where they main character stated they knew something was up by the **** of the letter (-paraphrased), if that helps?

  • 5
    In what way s is idiolect not appropriate? I keep coming across idiostyle mentioned, but without clear definitions, is that ringing any bells?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 15:22
  • 3
    You exclude voice in scare quotes but to me that is perfect: "I knew the message was from Jim, as it had his distinctive voice."
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 15:51
  • 1
    Idiolect seems to be the preferred term in forensic linguistics and elsewhere. I'd also agree with "voice" or "writing style". +1 for spagirl and cobaltduck.
    – Wudang
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 16:02
  • An ideolect is a person's specific way of expressing him- or herself. I would use it to refer to someone specific speech but not a writing style. The term is like dialect. A dialect also refers to spoken language, though of course, one can also write in a dialect's style.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 17:05
  • With me the term would be "illegible".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 12:59

8 Answers 8


The term writeprint is a specific term used in the field of stylometry research. According to Wikipedia:

Writeprint is a term proposed by some forensic linguistics researchers to denote a set of distinguishing stylometric characteristics of a written text (writer invariants) such as "vocabulary richness, length of sentence, use of function words, layout of paragraphs, and key words" which allow one to identify its author (if written by a single person).



A distinctive feature; a peculiarity.
- ‘Imitating the great singers with full respect to their quiddities and idiosyncrasies isn't easy.

Merriam-Webster says it originally derived from Medieval Latin quidditas, which means essence, composed from the Latin quid; ‘what’, and the neuter quis, the interrogative pronoun for ‘who’. In Italian it is quiddità.

You could mention “the quiddity of a person's writing style/voice”.


1.1 A distinctive or peculiar feature or characteristic of a place or thing.

In a paper entitled Idiosyncratic Expression: Stylistic Analysis the academician claims that the peculiar style and choice of words help identify the author of a written piece of work and allow readers to glimpse into the writer's inner psyche, which is not otherwise exposed.

The writer's individuality is expressed by the writer's language. The term "language" is too broad, but stylisticians have reduced it to mean only vocabulary, syntax and images. More often finding the irregularities in the vocabulary or syntax has become important in the stylistic analysis. J. Middleton Murry calls this irregularity "idiosyncrasy"(5), other critics call it a "deviation from the norm." [...]. In other words, the irregularity reflects those suppressed features of the psyche or personality that surface from the deep which reflects the man behind the words.

From Murray's book, THE PROBLEM OF STYLE (1922)

In the first of these sentences ‘I know who wrote the article in the Saturday Review — Mr. Saintsbury. You couldn't mistake the style’, ‘style’ means that personal idiosyncrasy of expression by which we recognize a writer. Many elements go to make up this individuality. One of the best ways of distinguishing them and discovering the order of their importance is to play that excellent game of guessing the authorship of passages.

Finally, if you can identify someone's style of writing, singing, or painting, it is said to be


not likely to be confused with something else; clearly recognized
Not able to be mistaken for anything else; very distinctive:

Sources: Cambridge, Oxford Living, and Macmillan Dictionaries

  • Yes but unmistakable may define anything, not only a writing style. OP wants a term for "a very personal writing style."
    – user66974
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 17:49
  • @Josh if you say someone's writing is unmistakable everyone will know what you mean, and so far, it's the best solution of the bunch. Signature is ambiguous, a signature is the unique way you sign your name. Nowadays you also hear about signature dish, and a signature tune, but it refers (more often than not) to something that was especially created ad hoc by a person, or made famous by them.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 18:09

It is their signature (writing style) - as unique as their (handwritten) signature.


signature NOUN

1.2 A distinctive pattern, product, or characteristic by which someone or something can be identified:
‘the chef produced the pâté that was his signature’
[as modifier] ‘his signature dish’

  • I dunno. I still feel that voice is a better choice. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 12:01

There is a real problem with this question, even though it is in one sense clear. It does not make a distinction between between the recognition of style when we are talking about a public writer with a large enough output for the fine stylistic identification, such as Dickens' (as 'Dickensian'), or Machiavelli's (as Machiavellian), or whatever, and, say, a personal acquaintance without a huge literary output but only what we might call writing habits that might be shared with many others. In the latter case, how distinctive the style is might depend on the size of the circle of acquaintance. I once recognised a colleague's mind and style from the opening paragraph of a controversial report supposedly written by someone else: I reacted by thinking "that's David's hand" - and I proved right. I could have said it many other ways. Must there be a single word that expresses this and only this? Joyce's writing is 'Joycean', Beckett's is 'pure Beckett' ('Beckettian' being just too hideous). And if we are talking about our friend Patricia among a circle of 10 friends we could speak of 'pure Patricia' even though wider research might show that her way of writing to friends was not at all remarkable. A single word is not necessary or even helpful.

  1. Syntax


What is Syntax? Quite simply put, syntax is sentence structure. We’re lucky that such a simple sentence comes pre-built with alliteration to help us remember. Syntax = sentence structure = simple!

To better understand what syntax is, consider for a moment that you are one of the authors that you’ve been studying in preparation for the AP® English Literature exam. Pick your favorite even. Walt Whitman? Harper Lee? F. Scott Fitzgerald?

Imagine that you are sitting down at a table to write your grand masterpiece. You’re about to write a sentence. The way you form that sentence is syntax. Do you make the sentence long with many dependent clauses? Do you make your sentences short, choppy, rhythmic? Do you repeat the first word again and again? The last?....

  1. Stylometry


Identifying People from their Writing Style

It’s called stylometry, and it’s based on the analysis of things like word choice, sentence structure, syntax and punctuation. In one experiment, researchers were able to identify 80% of users with a 5,000-word writing sample.


Whether you're looking for a term other than this I can't be sure, but most writers I know, including myself, call it prose.

:written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical arrangement [Merriam Webster's]

Tom Clancy's entertaining prose makes him a successful writer even if his story is less than exciting.


The word I believe you are looking for is... DICTION

I went on the same search as you and came up fruitless after numerous searches, then cross-referenced idiolect with a few different search terms and found it!


Could the word be "colloquial"?

(of words and expressions) informal and conversational, and more suitable for use in speech than in writing.

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  • 1
    You should include the source of your definition. Commented 9 hours ago

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