What is good writing?

18 02 2009

I constantly question whether or not I am a good writer. Feedback about my writing varies from “great!” to “needs work”. I know that I tend to ramble from time to time and that writing concisely has always been a problem of mine. It is an problem that I have been working to correct for a while now. I have chosen elective classes this year for very specific reasons: an English Composition class to improve my grammar, a Corporate Communications class to improve my writing within an organization (I was asked to improve my internal communications in my last job), and  two political science classes (the American Presidency and Congress) that require concise and straight-forward writing. But in my efforts to improve my writing, I have discovered that I am more confused than ever. Why am I receiving such dichotomous reviews from professors?  

“Well once college is over I am not going to need to worry about this anyway,” I said to a friend. “Right,” she said.

Aftertward, I headed over to the library to do work, which inevitably led to aimless thoughts during my sporadic breaks on twitter and youtube. I decided then that I was wrong before when I said that the differing reviews didn’t matter. As a public relations professional, I will need to be able to write for a variety of audiences. I can’t say then that my unfavorable writing one time doesn’t matter, because it will always matter. My grade will not be a factor; I will be responsible for my client’s image.

On this thought, I read through my favorite “copyblogger” articles, one of which is titled “Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well” by Brian Clark, published on 10/30/06. Here are Hemmingway’s 5 tips:

  1. Use short sentences
  2. Use short first paragraphs
  3. Use vigorous english
  4. Be positive, not negative
  5. There is no 5, but Clark found a great quote to fill the space — “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

If you are ever feeling as discourged as I felt today, take a look at the blog “Copyblogger“. And if you are not feeling discouraged, take a look at it anyway. Copyblogger is a great writing reference for journalism/pr students.




One response

25 09 2010

I cannot say that Hemingway always followed all of these rules himself. Perhaps it’s more of an editing guide. You either feel how to write, or should study 5 years with loads to rules and restrictions. And in the second case, there’s no guarantee you’ll end up writing well.

But surely these rules will help if you employ them in revising your article to make it more readable.

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