what really makes good writing?

“If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.” Tennessee Williams

how we perceive or understand what we read is mostly subjective, right? it follows then that how we write is also subjective. good writingsome of us look for good grammar as a yardstick for good writing. others look for phrasing. others look at syntax. others just look for something. and we draw assumptions about the writer based on these filters. preconceived, learnt behaviours we might not even realise we have.

but what really makes good writing?

briefly, here are the basic characteristics of good, effective writing:

  • Good writing has a clearly defined purpose.
  • It makes a definite point.
  • It supports that point with specific information.
  • The information is clearly connected and arranged.
  • The words are appropriate, and the sentences are conciseemphatic, and correct.

Mike Consol captures this so aptly in his article: Kill the Euphemisms

side topic

many companies are recognising that it is essential to invest in good copy, read about  How Facebook had to go beyond robospeak 

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sonnet 116: challenging life

sonnet 116When people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it should not be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that it what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say it how it is.

It isn’t a hiding place, it is a finding place.’

Jeanette Winterson, from Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Came across this quote on Dawn Garisch’s blog, and I was practically jumping on my bed because earlier this afternoon I was trying to help a bunch of grade 11 Xhosa, native-speaking kids unpack Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds”. It was such an awesome experience for me to watch them really throwing themselves and their eyes light up as the words of the poem started making sense. Of course it could possibly because this sonnet is about love.

I am a big advocate of the power of poetry in teaching. Poetry allows learners to dream and come up with word images that transport them to faraway lands, to dream new worlds. Most importantly, it gives them essential skills that help in unpack complex concepts. It allows for brainstorming. Structured thinking. Definitely promoting creative thinking. Seeing links between words and concepts and goes a long way towards helping them access their school curriculum. Poetry is a playful way of learning, for sure..

And for those, who really live in dangerous situations (literally). Who see and breathe negativity around them. Those who live in poverty. It allows them space to exhale and take in new ideas. To escape for a moment into their imagination and be silly.