Despite a general consensus that dimensional models are superior to the categorical representations of personality disorders in DSM-IV, proposals for how to depict personality pathology dimensions vary substantially. One important question involves how to separate clinical severity from the style of expression through which personality pathology manifests. This study empirically distinguished stylistic elements of personality pathology symptoms from the overall severity of personality disorder in a large, longitudinally assessed clinical sample (N = 605). Data suggest that generalized severity is the most important single predictor of current and prospective dysfunction, but that stylistic elements also indicate specific areas of difficulty. Normative personality traits tend to relate to the general propensity for personality pathology, but not stylistic elements of personality disorders. Overall, findings support a three-stage diagnostic strategy involving a global rating of personality disorder severity, ratings of parsimonious and discriminant valid stylistic elements of personality disorder, and ratings of normative personality traits.