The main goals of stylistics are to describe, analyze, and in certain cases to improve linguistic style. There is a distinction to be made between ancient and modern stylistics, since the former is a branch of rhetoric discussed by Aristotle and Quintilian. This was a normative discipline, which aimed at honing the orator's style to make it more polished and persuasive.
Modern stylistics, however, is primarily descriptive rather than normative. The aim is to analyze the characteristic style of a writer or a group of language users and to describe the choices that constitute the style they use. This may be done comparatively across languages or dialects or even between individual writers. Beyond the simplest possible expression of meaning, there are always linguistic choices to be made. It is immediately evident, for instance, that the same event described by Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner will yield two very different pieces of writing. The goal of stylistics is to analyze and comment on such differences.