So What is Good Writing?
Ask around the business world, and I'm pretty sure most people would come up with an answer something like this:
Good writing is clear and concise.
It's direct and gets straight to the point.
It uses simple Plain English and absolutely no jargon.
But, over the years, I've become increasingly dissatisfied with this consensus view. It's not exactly wrong; it just doesn't seem to be very helpful as a means of pointing the way for people who want to write better. What exactly is jargon, for example - and why is it so bad? Does concise mean the same as short? And just how plain is Plain English?
In any case, I'd like to offer you an alternative definition. It's based on my observation that, while the things I write for a living are fairly diverse, the same basic principles of effective communication always apply. Whether I'm working on a press ad, a mail shot, a website or a customer newsletter, the secret of success is for me to be as clear as possible about two things:
- Who the reader is and
- What result I'm hoping to achieve
And, being an old adman, I've attempted to make this insight digestible by encapsulating it in a snappy six-word slogan:
Remember the Reader and the Result!
How relevant is this to the kind of writing that your work involves? Well, I don't know what you do; but, all the same, I'm convinced you will do it better if you make the effort to discover your "inner copywriter" ...