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How do we get from OK to WOW!

January 24, 2013

ImageWriting well – what is it? I try to help people to do it but the longer I work and read the more I realise how subjective this notion is. I can recognise many types of bad writing. It may be difficult to read because the sentences are too long, or because it includes specialist words that are not clear to the intended audience or because rambling diversions get in the way of the point. Poor spelling and grammar can make reading hard work too of course but I am totally bored of blogs and LinkedIn threads that point this out. What makes a piece of writing exceptionally good?

I hope that my writing is usually readable and unlikely to be selected as an example of how not to do it. But that is hardly a boast from someone who makes a living by helping people to write well. The writing I enjoy reading and the prose you pick out as exceptional will be different. Of course. We choose different clothes, partners, pets and neighbourhoods and we have been exposed to different influences.

Exploring this question will amuse me and may help me to do my job better. I hope that it will also provide some interesting thoughts for you, my readers. I always tell my classes that the first thing they must do is to analyse their readership. So who are you? You take an interest in writing and the English language. You are probably quite highly educated and you have the time and inclination to graze in the blogging fields. Some of you I know personally as consultants or retired teachers – that seems to fit.

With you over the next weeks, I am going to attempt to expand my understanding of what makes writing good rather than what stops it from being bad. To misquote Lennon and McCartney, let’s take a good song and make it better. Let’s think about what makes us notice a piece of writing for positive reasons, and read it again, and forward it to our friends.

The lioness above is more likely to extract a wow! from you than this piece of writing. She was the result of preparation, the patience, skill and experience of others, being ready at the right moment and a large dose of luck. There are some transferable lessons in there for sure.

To find all articles on this subject, search in the category OK to WOW

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