The thing that comedy and taste both have in common is that whether or not it is “good” mostly depends on your opinion. And yet, while everyone has different opinions on, say, what flavor of ice-cream is the best…
You can still find agreement from chocolate lovers that some chocolate ice creams are “better” than others.
- But what makes writing “good”?
- What is the difference between a good writer, and a bad one?
- Is there a difference between bad writing, and ugly writing?
As with most things in life, the truth can be complicated. Which brings us to understanding this first, and most important point…
Good writing is interesting to read
There are many ways to make something interesting, and none of them are “wrong”. But some methods for creating interest are more reliable than others.
But at the end of the day, what makes writing bad is that people don’t want to read it. If nobody wants to read what you wrote, then it’s bad writing, no matter how TRUE or UNIQUE or CREATIVE it is.
Do you think your writing is good? You should. That is absolutely important.
But that doesn’t mean anyone else will agree. Your writing might be good to you, but if someone else finds it uninteresting, it’s also bad for them. And as a writer, you have to ask yourself if you want to write something that is good for you to read, or good for others to read. Because if your goal is to interest yourself with your writing, you don’t need a blog or a book.
The Difference Between Good and Bad Writing
If you are publishing your writing so that others will want to read it, then the only useful measure of “good” writing is if OTHER PEOPLE find it interesting. And there are a few things that most people will agree are part of an interesting read.
- Eloquence is elegance. Be concise.
- Use your words to narrate the EXPERIENCE rather than merely describe the details.
- Stick to the point – too many ideas can be difficult to remember.
- Use language familiar to your reader.
- Keep your writing focused on the conflict you are writing about.
Beyond that, if people are reading what you are writing… that’s success. Being good enough to keep others interested is all that it takes to be successful as a writer. And even that is not easy…
Understanding the Difference Between Bad and Ugly Writing
There are many people who will describe this differently, but the difference between bad and ugly writing boils down to is the difference between learning the rules, and learning when to break the rules.
Essentially, bad writing isn’t interesting, while ugly writing is. In fact, sometimes ugly writing can be even MORE interesting than “good” writing. For example:
- The Bad: Greg has bad teeth.
- The Good: Greg’s teeth are yellow and crooked; he could use a good dentist.
- The Ugly: Boy ole Greg has a smile that could curdle milk, yes he does!
All 3 of these sentences are describing the same person – an old man named Greg with bad teeth. But the ugly sentence, while not being as concise as the good one, is still more interesting. The “yes he does” at the end conveys a sense of character about the speaker that the other sentences don’t. So while the “good” sentence is grammatically correct, the “ugly” sentence which is more wordy, adds to the character of the author, which is more interesting to the reader.
Because at the end of the day, you’ll notice that all of these rules are focused on the reader.
Who is your reader?
What will they find interesting?
Because if you do not have your reader in mind, how do you know if they will like what you wrote?