1) Style (Webster's and Random House dictionary definitions):

A. A manner of expression characteristic of an individual, period, school or nation

B. Elegance or luxury

C. Grace or polish in a person's manner or actions

D. The rules according to which printed matter is spelled, punctuated, or arranged


2) The word is derived from the instrument stilus, of metal, wood, or ivory, by means of which, in classic times, letters and words were imprinted upon waxen tablets.  By the transition of thought known as metonomy the word has been transferred from the object which makes the impression to the sentences which are impressed by it, and a mechanical observation has become an intellectual conception.  To "turn the stylus" was to correct what had been written by the sharp end of the tool, by a judicious application of the blunt end, and this responds to that discipline and self-criticism upon which literary excellence depends.  The energy of a deliberate writer would make a firm and full impression when he wielded the stylus.  A scribe of rapid and fugitive habit would press more irregularly and produce a less consistent text.  The varieties of writing induced by these differences of temperament would reveal the nature of the writer, yet they would be attributed, and with justice, to the implement which immediately produced them.  Thus it would be natural for anyone who examined several tablets of wax to say, "The writers of these inscriptions are revealed by their stylus"; in other words, the style or impression of the implement is the medium by which the temperament is transferred to the written speech.

Edmund Gosse, 11th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica


3) Le style est l'homme même. (Style is the man himself.)

Georges-Louis de Buffon


4) Proper words in proper places make the true definition of a style

Jonathan Swift


5) Le style rend singulières les choses les plus communs, fortifie les plus faibles, donne de la grandeur aux plus simples.

(Style makes common things exceptional, strengthens the weakest, and imparts grandeur to the simplest.)

 — Voltaire


6) Style is the dress of thought. 

Samuel Wesley


7) Manners are the hinge between ethics and aesthetics, virtue and beauty, a meticulous disciplining of the body which converts morality to style, aestheticizes virtue and so deconstructs the opposition between the proper and the pleasurable.

Terry Eagleton


8) Style is the principle of decision in a work of art, the signature of the artist's will.

Every style is a means of insisting on something.

Our perception of the style of a given work of art is always charged with an awareness of the work's historicity, its place in a chronology.

The difference I have drawn between style and stylization might be analogous to the difference between will and willfulness.

Susan Sontag


9) Style is persuasion.

anonymous S.F.S.U.  student


10) Stil ist in Kulturen der Pulsschlag des Sicherfüllens.  Jetzt entsteht — wenn man das Wort gebrauchen will — der zivilisierte Stil als Ausdruk des Fertigseins. 

(Style, in the Cultures, has been the rhythm of the process of self-implementing.  But the Civilized style — if we may use the word at all)— arises as the expression of the state of completeness.)


Zur organischen Geschichte eines Stils gehört ein Vorher, Auserhalb und Nachher.

(The organic history of a style comprises a "pre-," a "non-," and a "post-.")


Vergesen wir nicht, dass aus dem hier vorausgesetzten Begriff des Stils folgt, dass Romanik, Gotik, Renaissance, Barock, Rokoko nur Stufen ein und desselben Stils sind.

(It follows, we must not forget, from the conception of style we are working on here, that Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo are only stages of one and the same style.)

Oswald Spengler


11) Style is to a culture as personality is to a soul.

 — Arthur Chandler


12) It is difficult for styles to become static without deteriorating or disintegrating.  The developmental flow of style is one of its most characteristic qualities.

— A.L. Kroeber


13) Every art technique has a social context.  As society changes, techniques change, along with the media of the arts and the modes of recording experience. So a style becomes an index to the structure of the contemporary consciousness and to the prevailing attitude toward experience in this contemporary world.

A style is not so much a "way of seeing the world" as it is a technique for representing what is already seen.

Wylie Sypher


14) The semiautonomous development of art styles within the internal history of art makes it impossible for a work of art to be a direct reflection of the society in which it was made.

— Geraldine Pelles


15) [On the style of historical periods:] The historian cannot help dividing his material in "periods," nicely defined in the Oxford Dictionary as "distinguishable portions of history."  To be distinguishable, each of these portions has to have a certain unity; and if the historian wishes to verify this unity instead of merely pre-supposing it, he must needs try to discover intrinsic analogies between such overtly disparate phenomena as the arts, literature, philosophy, social and political currents, religious movements.

Irwin Panofsky


16) Style is character. It is the quality of a man's emotion made apparent; then by inevitable extension, style is ethics, style is government.



17) A man's style in any art should be like his dress — it should attract as little attention as possible.

Samuel Butler


18) You wouldn't say an axe handle has style to it.  It has beauty, and appropriateness of form, and a "this-is-how-it-should-be-ness."  But it has no style because it has no mistakes.  Style reflects one's idiosyncrasies.  Your personality is apt to show more to the degree that you did not solve the problem than to the degree that you did.

Charles Eames


19) After the high seriousness of a word like "form," "style" seems almost frivolous, merely decorative, an accessory, like braid trim on a 19th century jacket.  Style belongs to the world of the profane, while Form is a pretender to the altar of the sacred.  Style is found in the street and the marketplace.  It belongs to a time and a place, and knows its name and address.  Form is never found hanging out on a street corner or in the daily news.  It transcends manners and morals, dynasties and tribes, Blue Periods and Golden Ages, the Great Awakening and the Industrial Revolution.  Pure, ideal, eternal, Form has the metaphysical prestige of the soul.  Style is just dirty fingerprints.

Penny Benda


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Thanks to the following colleagues who contributed to this list:

Tonia Aminoff

Tim Drescher

Howard Isham

George Leonard

Marvin Nathan