Shannon Philpott

Writing, Reflecting, Teaching

What is Good Writing?

Every semester, it never fails, that a student asks me what constitutes good writing. I welcome this question although it is difficult to answer. The truth is that good writing is subjective and what I may deem as a good piece, someone else may not.

However, I’m going to attempt to answer this question with a list of possibilities – a realm of traits that have led me to rave about and cherish a piece of writing.

Good writing … makes sense. It allows your readers to understand your ideas, argument or main point without having to guess the who, what, when, where, why and how (5 Ws and H).

Good writing … makes you feel something, whether it is anger, sadness, eternal happiness or doubt.

Good writing … takes the reader there. In other words, it is full of vivid descriptions and relevant examples that allow the reader to visualize the story in his or her mind.

Good writing … prompts the reader to think critically and reflect upon his or her own connection to the author’s ideas and experiences.

Good writing … has a punch and engages the reader. In other words, it doesn’t make you want to go to sleep, bang your head on the wall or tear it into pieces out of sheer boredom.

One important note: Not once did I mention grammar and punctuation. While solid grammar and punctuation use is necessary to produce a cohesive paragraph, much less sentence, the emphasis I place on good writing is more content-related. The content is primary, while fixable editing errors are secondary.

Also note that what I deem as solid characteristics of good writing, changes ever-so-often as I’m exposed to new genres, bold styles of writing and creative authors (and students).  The quest for better writing is an exciting challenge, in my opinion.

My list is complete … for now. What does your list look like?

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- Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: Jan. 15, 2010

© Shannon Philpott, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shannon Philpott and shannonphilpott.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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January 15, 2010 - Posted by | Blog, Teaching, Writing | , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Great post, Shannon. I think you cover everything that I would consider good writing. I especially agree with your second and fourth characteristics. Good writing tells a story that connects with a reader on an emotional level and prompts him or her to feel or react in some way.

    Comment by Ami | January 15, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thanks, Ami! As a reader, I want to feel something or connect with the ideas, too. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering but definitely something that moves us.

    Comment by sphilpott | January 16, 2010 | Reply

  3. [...] crucial and for me, a good hook involves an interesting human subject in a good piece of writing (What is Good Writing?). I want to relate right away to a person’s life story, sense of tragedy or triumph and [...]

    Pingback by I Hear Voices « Shannon Philpott | January 22, 2010 | Reply

  4. Hey – a nonpublished writer here, appreciating good tracks to run on. The first item reminds me of the Duke Ellington quote: “If it ain’t got that swing, it don’t mean a thing.” (Duke could have benefited from a language course to correct some of his sentence structure!) This is a sharp site. I will re-visit, soon.

    Comment by wildermanonrollingcreek | March 11, 2013 | Reply


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