The 5 Essentials of Good Writing

Good writing is one of the most powerful tools you can employ when trying to establish yourself as a reliable, trustworthy source. Good writing can help you make a living, convince others to accept your point of view, or inspire strong emotions in your audience.

So then, what makes good writing, well…good? Is it something we just know when we see it? Possibly. Or are there specific elements that lead us to assess someone’s writing as “good”? Usually.

Even accounting for varying tastes, good writing generally contains most, if not all, of the following 5 Essentials:
  1. Purpose. Good writing is purposeful. It meets a need of some sort, whether that need is entertainment, persuasion, or information. You’re not just throwing a bunch of random ideas onto the page and hoping to stumble upon a relevant point.
  1. Efficacy. Good writing produces valuable effects, i.e., thoughts, emotions, or actions. Your readers think, feel, or do something meaningful because of your writing.
  1. Organization. Good writing is organized. Your post, article, or essay proceeds logically from the main idea, to the supporting details, to the conclusion. Every sentence, paragraph, or section expands on earlier information or introduces new facts so that you have little to no repetition.
  1. Clarity. Good writing is clear. It may not be easy to think about, but it’s concise, precise, and descriptive. You’re writing exactly what you need to convey your purpose. You also use specific, interesting language.
  1. Mindfulness. Good writing is mindful. You keep the interests, knowledge, and values of your readers in mind as you write. You choose the appropriate tone, point of view, and content so that your readers aren’t bored or confused.
How do the 5 Essentials Help?

Probably the most important rule of writing is to write for your audience. The 5 Essentials help you do that by keeping your text focused, engaging, and relevant. Here’s how:

  1. Purpose:

    Knowing the purpose helps you identify your audience. Who do you want to inform, persuade, or entertain? If you want to inform employees about best practices for resolving payroll disputes, the information you include will look different for managers than for front-line cashiers.

  1. Efficacy:

    Deciding on the effect you want helps you choose the tone of your writing. What do you want readers to do when they read what you wrote? If you want donations for your charity, you’ll probably have more success in appealing to people’s emotions than their intellect. 

  1. Organization:

    Organized writing helps you create a “map” for your readers to follow. In essence, you’re walking readers through your thought process. Doing that in an orderly, coherent fashion means your readers are more likely to see your ideas as well-developed and logical. They’re also less likely to give up on your text because they feel confused.

  1. Clarity:

    Clear writing helps your readers understand your ideas. Concision and precision in your wording choices and sentence structure enhance your ideas. Readers can easily comprehend your ideas instead of wading through a mess of verbosity. Plus, complicated/wordy writing is usually annoying.

  1. Mindfulness:

    Awareness of your audience’s interests, knowledge levels, and values helps you determine what content to include. Writing posts or articles for experts will look different than one composed for novices.

Who Can be a Good Writer?

I think just about anyone can become a competent writer with a little help. I think most competent writers can become good writers with sufficient practice and the right skills and habits.

Whether you’re a student, blogger, or business owner, writing is critical to your success. Good writing can improve your chances of getting a better grade in school, generating more traffic to your website, or attracting new customers to your company.

How Does Good Writing Help me Sound Like an Expert?

First, good writing develops out of organized ideas. Organized ideas mean you’ve actually spent some time considering your subject. After all, experts don’t just know minute details or facts. They know where the particulars of their topic fit in relation to other, broader matters.

In other words, experts can contextualize their knowledge and writing, i.e., they can show how their ideas fit into a “bigger picture.”

Second, good writing can help you come across as knowledgeable and authoritative. You can show that you’ve got some expertise on the topic at hand. When readers perceive you are demonstrating you know what you’re talking about (instead of just claiming you know), they’re more likely to respond favorably to your writing and to you.

More to Come!

Check back on Thursday for a post on the 5 Skills you’ll want to develop to produce good writing! You can also see my introduction post here and follow me on Twitter.

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