Rajesh Kumar

Optimizing life, one day after the next

Elements of Good Writing

28 Jul 2012

I think after 12 years of writing publicly, I feel like I've finally figured out what it takes to write a solid piece of good writing. Not that I've figured out how to do it, but figuring out what it takes is the first step to actually doing it.

Good writing must be compelling. The reader should always feel like he's about to fall off a cliff hanger if he were to stop reading your piece.

Good writing must make a point. And the point need not have to be clear early on. As long as it's clear towards the end, you're in good shape. In fact, some of the best pieces of writing I have come across have made their point only in the last sentence. Everything else was just background information and build up.

Good writing must flow like a river. Each sentence must logically and unequivocally follow from the previous.

Good writing must surprise and contradict. Predictable writing is boring, and no one will want to read it. Avoiding clich├ęs therefore isn't a rule of thumb, but a rule of law. Save phrases like "last but not the least" and "time will tell" for your boring essays in English class.

Last but not the least (ha!), good writing must engage the imagination. The reader must be compelled to fill in the details on his or her own, seeing things you aren't showing them, and hearing words you never wrote down.

Maybe one day, a day hopefully sooner than another 12 years from today, I'll be able to incorporate all these traits together in the same post.

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