What is Good Writing?

Defining what makes good writing is one of the most difficult issues in literature. The most wonderful and essential thing about literature is that it is such a diverse concept. As everyone has their own perceptions about what makes a good story, pleasing all readers is an impossible task. However, there are six basic rules, labelled as the ‘Six Traits’ by an education laboratory in Oregon, USA, which every work of literature should adhere to in their bid to be considered as ‘good writing.’

These six traits are as follows-

Ideas – the concepts within a story have to be interesting, worth telling, and where possible, original.

Organisation – be logical in the approach and organization of your paragraphs and chapters.

Voice – be individual. Make your writing voice your own. Don’t attempt to imitate someone else.

Word choice – be specific in your word choice. Choose words that are memorable, that suit your style as an author as well as the personality of your characters. Avoid using too many words. Make every word in your story count towards the plot.

Sentence structure – don’t over-complicate your sentences. Keep your sentences fluid and simple to understand. It is better to have a short, interesting sentence than a long one which loses itself in unnecessary words.

Conventions – make sure all grammar, spellings and rules of storytelling punctuation are adhered to. Ensure your text is clear and easy to read. Always edit your work with these rules in mind.

Good stories aren’t always written well. Conversely, good writing doesn’t always form a good story. To succeed as a writer you have to achieve both of these aims. By keeping the ‘Six Traits’ in mind, though, you’ll be closer to achieving that ‘good writing’ goal.

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Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.

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