Good Writing – can you define it?

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Anyone can write, right?

Papyrus with red and black hieroglyphics - is this good writing?Well…, it depends on what you mean by “write”. Putting pen to paper? Key to screen? Or communicating effectively via the written word in any medium?

The measure of “good writing” also depends on for whom you’re writing. Does your audience understand and respond to what you say? If not, your writing might as well be squiggles on a page.

Writing and reading are so essential to our lives that we often take them for granted. If your country has a 95% or higher literacy rate, you might not know anyone who cannot write. But you certainly know some people who write better than others. What makes the difference?

Good writing is attractive, clear and persuasive

These simple-sounding qualities require skill and are also medium-dependent. People who write good academic treatises may not write good web copy. Technical writers may not know how to involve an audience emotionally in a sales pitch or a TV script.

They could, but they need to add skills to their existing experience. Increasingly, good writers are able to adopt a genre-appropriate style, and are also transliterate—able to move between media and modify their approach for each.

Whatever the medium, good writing addresses its target audience in a way that attracts, clarifies and persuades.

Attractiveness

Good writing is aesthetic, relevant and accessible to its target audience.

This means that its presentation, headings, style, rhythm and vocabulary appeal to them. It follows or breaks the rules of the genre or the medium intelligently for effect. Thus, it avoids annoyance and creates comfort or delight.

The audience believes it to be enjoyable, useful or meaningful. They want to read it.

Clarity

Good writing has something to say and says it well.

It enables comprehension by avoiding factual errors, tautology, mixed metaphors and subject-verb disagreements. The difference between “discrete” and “discreet”, “affect” and “effect”, or “user’s” and “users” is clear. Excellent spelling, grammar and punctuation smooth the flow. Thus, the argument or story is easy to follow.

Therefore, its words make sense to its audience. They understand it.

Persuasiveness

Good writing engages curiosity, holds attention and invites response.

It provides intellectual and emotional reasons to continue reading. Points of identification convince its target audience of its relevance to them. And questions and calls to action enable them to make choices during or after reading.

So it improves their knowledge or their state of mind. They respond to it positively.

Ask your audience…

To evaluate whether the writing in your website, newsletter, treatise, blog post, novel, video, article or any other context is good, ask your audience, or check their metrics. Were they attracted to it? Did they understand it? How did they respond to it?

If you don’t like the answers, then consider employing a professional writer!

… as I’m asking you!

How about you? Did you find this post attractive, clear and persuasive? If, for you, it fell down in any of these areas, how would you improve it? Tell us in your comments.

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