Addison is one of the greatest prose stylists in English literary history. He was the pioneer of a style that was very simple, lucid, natural, moderate, free from extravagant expression, and called ‘middle style’.
The most striking feature of Addison’s style is clearness and lucidity of expression. There is no complexity or obscurity or difficulty in his expression. Even, his long sentences are not difficult to understand. We can guess the meaning of his long sentences very clearly at the very first reading. Addison has also used short sentences when situation demands. For example, ‘As soon as the sermon is finished, nobody presumes to stir till Sir Roger is gone out of the Church.’
Humor is one of the most notable qualities of Addison’s style. His humor is mainly ironical and satirical and sometimes funny. It is not harsh or bitter but gentle and mild with a view to correcting the society.
Addison’s style is not highly figurative. Fanciful similes and metaphors are not found in his writings. Rather, when he thinks that his use of figurative language would be more useful and effective, only them he uses them. Addison uses many allusions, anecdotes, references. Additionally, most of his essays are headed by quotation from classical or modern authors and these quotations are very apt to the subjects of the essays. For example, Sir Roger at Church begins with the motto from Pythagoras-
‘First, in obedience to thy country’s rites,
Worship th’immortal God’.
Addison’s style is near to the language of conversation, but not to the informal conversational style of Montaige. His prose style is neither the informal language of conversation nor the ultra formal language of a serious and heavy treatise. It is free alike from the heaviness of hidebound formalism and the levity and license of common speech. It is something like a via media between the two.
Thus, Addison showed a perfect English prose style to a large extent and freed it from extravagances and excesses of eighteenth century writers, and brought in it clearness, lucidity and exactness.