Good writing. More precisely, a piece of writing or multiple pieces of writing which have been labelled with the quality of goodness. Everyone strives to have their writing become, through hard work, good writing. Good writing is a great thing, a thing to strive for.
But what is it, really?
Why is that we don’t have a single complete definition of what exactly good writing means?
Is it because good writing is subjective? After all, for one person, a piece of writing may be good. But that same piece of writing could be pathetic for a different reader. There lies the problem. Any definition of good writing won’t hold water for a second if it’s based on the writer’s own opinion. One could say, “good writing is writing which contains so-and-so”, and then a reader with different likes / dislikes will say: “What? Those qualities worsen a piece of writing instead of the other way around…”
How can anyone define good writing when people are not really thinking of good writing as such but good writing for them (a substantial difference) and when people are thinking of effective writing and not good writing?
Takeaway: let’s forget “good writing” for a moment. Consider a different concept, effective writing. Why? Because that can be measured. And the measurement leads to comparison in terms of degrees. The most effective writing turns out to be irresistible writing. Irresistible writing, in the proper context, leads to magnetic, award-winning, profit-making and productive writing.
With that in mind, let’s move on to the qualities of good writing — ahem, I mean effective writing…
The qualities of effective writing
Effective writing contains:
- Writing which is to-the-point. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating again. Don’t write words which mean nothing. Don’t needlessly make a piece of writing longer just because it looks more professional. Don’t go overboard with adjectives and adverbs, particularly when strong verbs do the job better. Use active voice instead of passive voice, unless you have a legitimate reason for using passive voice (action being more important instead of the doer). Don’t neglect grammar, sentence construction, punctuation, spelling and the other nuts-and-bolts. Don’t waffle around explaining the same point again and again. Trust the intelligence of your readers — but only up to a certain point.
- Writing which is written for an ideal reader. There is no such thing such as the ideal reader in reality, because certain readers will be ideal for some parts of your writing and others will be ideal for other parts. But you get the idea. Don’t write for yourself. Write for the reader. Effective writing is not written for the writer’s pride. It is written to solve readers’ problems, to educate them, to attract them, to make them perform the desired action. For this, writing for an imaginary ideal reader is the best solution. Go into details. Find about real prospective readers and their situations. Done that? Good. Now base your writing on what you have learned, keeping a reader-centric approach.
- Writing which uses elements of writing which its readers like. Maybe your readers don’t like an informal voice and figures of speech. Then, it’s pointless to fill up your writing with these elements and hope these don’t bother your readers. Likewise, it’s equally insensible to write jargon, legal language and other technical speak to a readership of teenagers.
- Writing which goes in-depth about the readers’ issues. The readers these days are not interested in superficial solutions to their problems. According to readers, today the world is infused by people who are completely out of sync with how reality is, and who instead pat themselves on the back after publishing shallow solutions. 300-word cookie-cutter, abnormally short novels with no meat in them, little or no research made before writing… all this leads to writing with no depth. If you want to go in-depth, you have to work harder. Research more. Find out more things. Then start writing your solutions.
- Writing which appeals to the reader’s rationality and emotions both. What, rationality and emotions both? These two things are mutually exclusive aren’t they? Not necessarily. A well-written piece of writing will appeal to the reader’s rationality and his/her emotions simultaneously. Think of the features and benefits approach. Features are necessary because without them you cannot have benefits. But without benefits features are useless, just being bullet points on a page. How to mix your writing to appeal both reason and emotion? Use a combination of opposite strategies such as facts and figures (reason) and stories (emotion). And so on. Takeaway: don’t neglect any part of your prospective reader’s personality.
- Writing which is logical and follows structure. If you don’t have structure, if you don’t follow logic, you won’t take your reader on a train (psychologically) which ends with your desired destination. Consider a common piece of copywriting, a sales letter or pitch. It follows logic and structure. First the headline, then the introduction, some testimonials, some more benefits, and then all the way down to the buy now button. Similarly, it applies logic to answer questions before the reader has the chance to ask them. End result: the reader buys the product, and that piece of writing is now classified in the effective writing category.
- Writing which is the right sort of humble. Effective writing is not arrogant. It doesn’t make wild marketing claims, it doesn’t boast of what it can’t do, but instead it proclaims its USP in a humble manner. Arrogant writing which scorns the reader will never be effective (beyond a certain point). Conversely, too humble writing will fail to get its point across. Balance. That’s what makes writing effective.
How to make a piece of writing effective
Start by incorporating these qualities in your piece, for one. I don’t mean all of these qualities without due considerations of the specialised needs of your readers. You could end up writing things which fulfil all these requirements and yet it’s not effective at all. Balance. Again balance. Try to find the appropriate balance which works best for you.
Effective writing comparison
Although good writing can’t be objectively compared, effective writing can because it can be measured. As in, how effective is it? Is this piece of writing more effective than that one? Some books are best-sellers. Meaning they’re more effective than other books in their class. So how do we make our writing more effective? So simple. More and more clarity. Study the effective ones, study how they got their respective desired actions from the readers, do your research… and then, start the long, long process of improving your somewhat effective (or not effective at all) writing to make it, well, more effective, more irresistible.
Effective writing leads to magnetic writing
Readers know how fond I am of using the term of magnetic writing. Magnetic writing is the end point of effective writing. It is what leads to recognition, awards and profit. Want to learn how to get to that end point? Learn it along with me in the magnetic writing articles.
What’s good writing in this context?
Good writing in this particular context, is merely highly effective writing. Conclusion for the ultimate definition of good writing:
Good writing is what good writing does. ~ Idrees Patel
Have your say
After finishing junior college (high school in other countries) I finally have some free time on my hands. This article is the first of the week-long Writers’ Treasure Relaunch which includes a cleaner design and other tweaks (which are still ongoing). Then the logical conclusions for any well-read reader is to: get free updates from Writers’ Treasure here, read the Archives for evergreen gems, write a comment or two, and stay tuned for more awesome content.
Joseph Pantel says
Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed!
Extremely useful information particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such information a lot.
I was looking for this certain info for a long time.
Thank you and good luck.
Jessica Millis says
Great article. Really, what is good writing means? What is good or bad at all? I remembered the Socratic dialogue about the beauty. Everything is subjective.
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my problem. You’re wonderful! Thanks!
I think writing is very important. Paying close attention to detail, writing slowly and carefully ,and, making it easy for the reader to make out what you wrote, Putting a clear title on top of the page, and, staying on topic. Not drifting off to another subject is very crucial in writing a professional document or story.