My Three Cents
MakovskyThursday, May 15, 2014
A great piece of writing is like a great piece of art. It grabs your attention almost instantly. The words fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The flow is as smooth as a canoe crossing a still pond on a lazy summer afternoon. The rhythm is right. You are caught by the combination of small and large words, words that blend because of cadence, sound or meaning.
In a piece of really good writing, not only are the word choices on point, so are the grammar and punctuation … not that I consider myself overly rigid about these things. I’m perfectly okay using an extra comma to protect the rhythm.
Someone once said of an artist that the actual time he spends painting fell far short of the amount of time spent working on his art. In essence, every time he looked at it, he saw a way to improve it.
But this sensibility doesn’t apply only to artists and poets. Beautiful writing has a place in business and personal correspondence, as well.
You can always recognize inspired writing: when you’ve read it, you want to share it … and you wish there were more to read.
The question is, what makes good writing? Usually it takes painstaking thought and multiple drafts. Re-reading what you have done and fixing the words and phrases that don’t work. Each re-reading reveals new opportunities to create more clarity. It may take two, three or more drafts, even five, before you get the sense that the “painting” is now in great shape.
There is no doubt that there is a wide variety of different applications when it comes to superior writing. General business writing, for example, is all about clarity. Personal correspondence is usually valued more for the sentiment and activities experienced than anything else; it is enhanced by lovely writing. Creative writing for promotional purposes requires tender loving care and many drafts to achieve perfection. Clients are willing to pay for that. The same is true for business articles written to deliver messages to target buyers. Such articles have long lives via websites and reprint mailers. Thus, the strength of the piece – conveyed through the words used – speaks to the quality of the skillset offered.
My assistant used to say, “With Ken, a piece of writing is never done. He will always find a way to change it.” She meant that as a criticism. I took it as a compliment, because great writing is preferred at all times and helps build your reputation and the regard others have for you.