What is Good Writing?

There are many elements that must work together to create good writing. Grammar, sentence structure, and word choice can make a huge difference in how writing comes across to an audience, how effective it is, and even how credible it sounds- are you going to take a writer or their work seriously when they haven’t even bothered to use basic punctuation? I certainly don’t.

However, there is more to being a good writer than understanding grammar and having an impressive vocabulary; I have always believed that the key to writing that is truly stands out is voice. As an old English teacher of mine used to put it, does your writing have a heartbeat or was it written by a robot?

Voice is something we all notice when we read something, whether it be consciously or subconsciously. We can instantly tell whether or not an author is passionate or indifferent by their tone, and not only does voice give their work a heartbeat, it helps the reader step into the writer’s world. It is a glimpse into the author’s personality and/or mindset that, if effective, can turn the act of reading an article or story into a conversation.

Another essential part of good writing is re-writing. I’ll admit, I don’t always re-write, and in fact, apart from a few spare edits I probably won’t re-write this post. But I should!

I’ve found that when I do take the time to edit and re-write my work, the job seems endless. Perhaps that is why I and so many other writers avoid the editing process. There is always something to change, always something that could be just a little bit better.

It can be long and arduous, but if you do choose to take the time to edit the parts that could be a little bit better, your work will be- surprise- better. Maybe it won’t be perfect but it’s important to remember that there is always room for improvement, and editing is nearly always improvement. No great writer ever published their first draft.

While it is incredibly important to have an understanding of grammar and the English language to be a good writer, all of the best writing has a voice and has likely been re-written multiple times. I don’t claim to be a great writer myself, but in my humble opinion, the ability to infuse your writing with personality and struggle through the frustrations of re-writing are the most critical elements to becoming a good writer.

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