Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Good" Writing

Question: What is “good” professional writing?

Answer/Quote: “How do you define good writing? Do you know good writing when you see it? In Leah’s [Zuidema] professional writing course, college students investigate what ‘good writing’ looks like in their fields of study. They examine writing samples, and they interview professionals in medicine, business, social work, computer science, law, engineering,, education, and other fields.

“The students all ask a version of this question: ‘How, in your profession, do you know when your writing is successful?’ Without fail, at least a few interviewees answer like this: ‘There’s no such thing as a universal definition of ‘good’ writing. I can’t give you a checklist or a formula. The only way to know if your writing is good is to see how your audience reacts to it. If you get the response you’re looking for it’s good writing.’” P. 95.

Comment:  The authors throw into the discussion ethical considerations in writing. Frankly, I’ve never thought about ethics in writing. The example the authors give is in job-searching and résumés. I think the issue of ethics in writing goes well beyond the job-search although more than a few famous people have cheated on their résumés. Ethics in writing is worth thinking about.

For me, however, audience response is as good a definition as you’re apt to get in defining “good” writing. RayS.

Title: “Professional Writing in the English Classroom: Good Writing: The Problem of Ethics.” LA Zuidema and Jonathan Bush, Eds. English Journal (July 2011), 95-98.

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