What makes for good writing—and what doesn’t.

Good writing

Good writing.

Good writing.

Good writing is about getting the reader to the next line in an organized and inspired fashion, imbuing them with the ideas you hold word-by-word, line-by-line, story-by-story. At the end, they should feel like they’ve encountered something profound, and they should look around to the nearest person to share that new feeling with.

Every word becomes a calculation with good writing: does its definition add to unnecessary complexity or does it tailor the exact experience you want to convey?

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums

All good writers have their own voice, so it’s not up to me to dictate that trade-off point for you. This is your experience you are trying to convey, and not mine.

However, it is good to get back to the root of writing: a good writer tries to make an idea resonate with somebody else. Defining that experience in a way that is mutually pleasurable, and comprehensible, is something all writers should strive for.

Good writing is about good ideas. If you want to be a good writer, strive to find good ideas wherever you can. Constantly strive to read new stories, meet new people, and to dream for those special ideas that move you and others.

Express those ideas in their simplest, and most beautiful form.

Good writing is about touching the undefinable sacred, and profane. Sometimes no words are more powerful than many.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”― Albert EinsteinLiving Philosophies

Do not mistake word count for insight. Marx wrote his Manifesto in 48 pages. It was the ideas behind it that really mattered, and those 48 pages shook, and continue to shake our world.

Good writing is not about showing off how many words you can look up in the thesaurus, or how well you can spell and punctuate.

Good writing is about holding a reader’s attention so that they can coherently absorb the idea you’re trying to communicate.

Good writing evokes imagery: it makes the right words dance across the mind’s eye with the right rhythm. It makes the reader feel like they are stuck one wisp away from an engaging conversation over coffee: good writing makes them want to pay for the writer’s next coffee so they can narrate every detail, to the last, of the reader’s life and make them comprehensible and tied to something greater, in ways the reader themselves never fathomed.

Most importantly, good writing leaves readers wanting for more.

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The author

Roger is an entrepreneur who has co-founded a social network entitled ThoughtBasin that looks to connect students looking to make a difference with organizations looking for difference makers. This experience has given him some setbacks, but also some priceless insights. He is deferring admission from the law school of University of Toronto to pursue his dream of creating impact through entrepreneurship, and he is constantly looking to learn and create, and to do more. He contributes to social entrepreneurship projects with his fellow Global Shapers, coordinates a volunteer tutoring site, and on his off time he unwinds by reading, writing, and dancing---sometimes, all at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Rogerh1991.

  • I agree, but I wouldn’t discount the importance of proper spelling and punctuation. Poor spelling and punctuation is a huge distraction and makes things harder to read.

    I find that poor punctuation usage is the more common of the two problems. The proper use of commas, for example, is a great way to let people know when they should pause. When people don’t use commas properly, I find myself having to reread the sentence again to understand it. It breaks up the flow.

    I think one sign of good writing is how fast you can read it. When you read good writing, it flows easily and you don’t have to backtrack to get comprehension.

    I like your writing. It flows easily.

    • Thank you Mark! Yes, really bad punctuation and spelling can ruin a reader’s day, so I agree it should be kept in mind: but I don’t think it is sufficient on its own for good writing.