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We know good writing when we read it. We understand it, it’s logical, and it’s easy and comfortable to read. To be more specific, good writing consists of the following.

Good writing is interesting

Interesting has many facets, but in the context of business and technical writing, interesting usually implies new information that it relevant and significant to our topic, to our purpose, and to our readers.

Good writing is well organized

Well-organized writing presents information in an order that is meaningful to our readers and achieves the purpose of our writing. If we are writing to explain how something works, we need to take our readers through a logical flow of facts. If we are making a proposal, we need to explain why the reader should comply.

Good writing uses an appropriate style and tone

Writing that is too formal can feel stuffy, awkward, and even pretentious. Writing that is too informal can leave our readers with the feeling that we aren’t taking them or our subject seriously enough.

Good writing uses words that are specific, meaningful, and easy to remember

There are roughly 250,000 words in the English language, which is possibly more than any other comparable language. Half of the English words are nouns, about one-quarter are adjectives, and about one-seventh are verbs. With these many words to choose from, we should be able to select words that are accurate, specific, and efficient. And if we do, our readers will likely remember what we wrote.

Good writing uses sentences that flow

Sentence flow, or fluency, refers to how individual words and phrases work together in a sentence, and how each sentence works with other sentences. When our writing is fluent, our readers can read it easily and understand it quickly.

Good writing conforms to accepted conventions, like spelling and grammar

There are books filled with the grammar, punctuation, and spelling rules for English. These are really conventions that readers and writers have agreed upon, which when followed help our readers understand our meaning. If we don’t follow these, our readers may misunderstand our meaning and may question our writing and ourselves.

Most recently on GoodWriting…

  • Interrobang

    The INTERROBANG was introduced by Martin K. Speckter in 1962 to fill a gap in our punctuation system. Writers were often using typographically cumbersome and unattractive combinations of the question mark and exclamation mark to punctuate rhetorical statements where neither the question nor an exclamation alone exactly served the writer. (HOW ABOUT THAT?!) You can find an ... Read more
  • Spelling, hyphenating, and acronyms

    Canadian spelling is funny, sometimes we use –our at the end of words like the British do, and sometimes we end words with –izes like the Americans do. Spelling is another of our careless-or-clueless trio, and requires special attention in Canada. Historically of course, English came from Great Britain and the British Empire that at one ... Read more
  • Making subjects and verbs agree

    We all know about subjects and verbs, and we probably all know about “the rule for subjects and verbs.” The rule is simple, and most of us know it: Verbs must agree with their subjects. If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural. We indicate a ... Read more
Last updated: February 18, 2015
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