What is good writing?
There isn’t a single answer. For starters, it depends a lot on your audience. Good writing for adults differs a lot from good writing for kids. It also depends on your medium and purpose. An academic piece is different from a blog post.
There’s one thing good writing isn’t: overly complicated.
Only 50% of adults can read at an 8th grade level. Let’s just skip over the standard rant about the education system. Instead, focus on the fact that only 50% of your potential adult readers can read at an “adult” level.
Most popular literature is written at a 6 or 7th grade level. Even people like Leo Tolstoy barely break above 8th grade. These are adult books, mind you.
Reading isn’t as fun if you have to work at it. Fancy language and unnecessary adverbs often just get in the way of the story. Complexity for complexity’s sake isn’t good.
Yes, yes. Sometimes you need complexity. You can’t write a medical journal without jargon. And complex ideas need complex sentence structures. But if we’re honest, most of what we’re writing doesn’t fit into this category.
So, what does this mean for you as a writer?
Think about reading levels. Longer sentences are more complex. Words with more syllables are harder. Measures like these are used to estimate reading levels. I’ll spare you the details.
For kids, reading levels are crucial. Don’t hit the right level and they can’t even read it.
I’ve been working on writing leveled texts for a contract. What a learning experience. My writing has definitely improved. You should try it, too.
Take the readability challenge:
Enter something you’ve written into an online readability calculator.
See if you can rewrite until you get to a lower reading level.
This blog post is a Grade 5. What did you get?