The Things They Carried is written in an informal, colloquial style, reflecting the way American soldiers in Vietnam spoke. O’Brien frequently makes use of the soldiers’ slang, such as the term “SOP” (which means “standard operating procedure”). The use of acronyms and military jargon adds to the authenticity of the novel. The writing is specific and vivid, such as the long list of things that the men carried in the title story: “Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs…” O’Brien also varies his style throughout the book. Some of the stories are told in the slightly more remote third person, as in the title story, while other stories are told in first person voice, such as in “How to Tell a True War Story,” in which O’Brien writes, “I had a buddy in Vietnam.” The direct address in those stories particularly creates a sense of intimacy for readers.

Read more about the use of colloquial language in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.