What Makes Good Writing?

This is a million-dollar question – quite literally, in many cases, as websites, marketing teams, and media outlets will spend a great deal of time and money on crafting high-quality, memorable written content.

But pinning down exactly what makes good writing can be elusive. What is it exactly that makes the critical difference between good writing and bad writing? What gives good writing its spark?

Leaving aside independent preferences and tastes, we can break down what makes a piece of writing truly excellent into three categories.

1. Good Writers

It comes as a surprise for many, but speaking and writing are very different skills. Having full fluency in spoken English does not necessarily guarantee that a person will be able to produce high-quality written content in English.

A writer with ideas and items bursting from their headIn addition to having a wide knowledge of vocabulary and grammatical formations, writers also need to have a sophisticated, nuanced understanding of tone, voice, and connotation (i.e., the “mood” or impression that different words create in a sentence beyond just their literal meaning).

Writers work very hard, often for years, developing their craft. Generally speaking, mastery of written English comes from:

  • Taking writing classes, whether in high school, university, or through private/online courses.
  • Honing skills through experience by working in a field that requires a fair amount of writing, such as academia, marketing, or (of course) content writing.
  • Reading! Most writers are also avid readers and learn a lot from the inspiring work of other writers.

However they develop their skills, it’s safe to say that good writing always starts with good writers.

2. Tailored Individuality

If you’ve ever played Mad Libs, then you know that it’s easy to write a paragraph as a template and simply fill in the blanks with different nouns and adjectives for different subjects.

This is a common approach that many blogs, websites, and marketing teams take, but it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to quality and impact.

For readers, it’s generally easy to tell when a piece of writing has been copy-pasted and applied too many times for different purposes, and it results in a boring, unmemorable reading experience.

A writer holding a giant pen with a light bulb attached. Symbolizing and idea.Conversely, writing that is crafted for a specific purpose contains that crucial spark of individuality and stylistic flair.

Different types of written content require vastly different approaches – after all, you wouldn’t expect a legal document to be written in the same style and tone as a listicle – and having a writer on your team who knows how to tailor their writing to fit your brand’s needs is a huge asset.

With so much sameness out there, having unique, individualized written content can make a crucial difference.

3. Collaboration

No person is an island, and very few writers can truly produce their best work alone. Getting thoughtful, constructive feedback from an experienced editorial team makes a huge difference and can help writers take their content from merely good to genuinely awesome.

Bird's eye view of two writers working togetherEditors help writers produce great writing by:

  • Ensuring that there are no spelling, grammar, or punctuation issues
  • Polishing every sentence until it shines
  • Exchanging ideas, thoughts, and constructive criticism
  • Challenging writers to deliver their best work every time

While the relationship between writers and editors is often thought of as a one-way street, with writers taking orders from their editors, this is not necessarily the case. Great editors work in collaboration with writers, with both sides learning from each other to ensure that clients always get the best quality writing.

So, What Is It Exactly That Makes a Particular Piece of Writing Great?

With so much content out there, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd.

Fortunately, that’s exactly what good writing does: it jumps off the page (or the screen) and pulls the reader in, offering him or her a fresh new perspective, a valuable source of information, or just an enjoyable reading experience.

Good writing also has practical applications, in that it can convey important, complex information in an easily understandable format. If you’ve ever tried to put together a piece of furniture, chances are you’ve already seen how difficult it can be if the written instructions are vague or unclear!

Good writing is writing that’s polished, individualized, and unique. It can help solve problems and communicate meaning in clear and memorable ways. Above all, it leaves the reader wanting more. It’s a critical tool in the toolbox of any blog, marketing agency, company, or content producer, and it can make that elusive, crucial difference in audience retention and brand awareness.

In short, while it can sometimes seem difficult to quantify, the power of good writing is not to be underestimated.

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