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What is good writing in English?

By Matthew, September 25 2015, 19:58
A picture of a person's hands typing on a typewriter
Lívia Cristina L. C. via Flickr
This is an introduction to the Poligo Guide to Writing in English. It will teach you how to write well. We start by thinking about what good writing is.

The first few parts of this guide will talk about good writing and learning to write. Some of these points are basic, and you might already know them. However, it is important to make them clear before we get into more detail.

This will be our guideline: “Good writing fits its purpose.”  This guideline is very flexible.  There are no fixed rules for how to write well. There is no single rule of “correct” or perfect writing that applies to all writers and all their purposes.  You can understand this point if we give you an example. 

Because there are many different reasons for writing, and there are, therefore, many different types of good writing.  This is very obvious if you take one style of writing and use it in a new situation.

Let’s take the Beatle’s famous song, Hey Jude:

Hey Jude, Don't make it bad,
Take a sad song, and make it better.
Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better.

What if you used that same style of writing in your next business email?

Dear Boss, Sales are bad,
Take our bad product, and make it better.
Remember to get it onto the market,
Then you can start to sell it better.

Hey Jude is one of the best songs in the history of music, and Paul McCartney was a brilliant songwriter. But if you used the same style in your business communications, I don’t think your boss would be very happy.

While this example is extreme, the same idea is true for all the writing styles in English. A way of writing that is useful for business email is not suited to writing essays or a Facebook post. It is important to remember this basic point as you read and learn to write in English. However, we can give you some general ideas about how to make your writing better. Read the next part to learn some rules of good writing.

Next: Nine rules for writing well in English.

  • Matthew's picture
    About me
    I am from New Zealand. I lived in Japan and Brazil for a long time, but now I am back home in Auckland. I am the founder of Poligo. I like to play guitar and video games and surf when I get the chance. I have a wife and two boys.
    I specialize in teaching English to professionals and English teachers. I have taught English since 2001 in Japan, New Zealand and Brazil. I speak Japanese & Portuguese. I am the founder of Poligo and The English Farm (an online school for business English).

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