What is good writing?


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‘Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can.
That is the only secret.’
– Matthew Arnold

A survey of judges (quoted in Bryan A. Garner – Legal Writing in Plain English)
when asked what they liked and disliked in writing, said they wanted a clear and concise style, well-organized (and without footnotes). The judges – and just about everyone else – said they liked:

A Clear Writing Style

  • Clarity
  • Clear concise statement of facts
  • Clear division of thought
  • Clear issues
  • Complex ideas stated simply and directly
  • Concise sentences
  • Directness
  • Instant clarity
  • Short words
  • Simple sentences
  • Understandable language
  • Well-put phrases

Concise Writing Style

  • Brevity
  • Concise sentences
  • Short, to the point style
  • Succinctness

Well-organized writing

  • Immediate identification of the issues
  • Informative headings
  • Issue and answer in the first paragraph
  • Logical flow
  • Logical organization
  • Structured paragraphs


Dislikes in Writing
The judges disliked:

  • Boilerplate paragraphs
  • Boring writing
  • Circuitous sentences
  • Clutter
  • Complicated writing
  • Convoluted writing
  • Dancing around the issue
  • Disjointed ideas
  • Disorganized style
  • Distortion of facts
  • Failure to frame the question
  • Footnotes – especially giant ones
  • Impossibly small type
  • Incompleteness
  • Latin terms and technical language
  • Lazy writing
  • Lengthiness
  • Long decisions
  • Long paragraphs
  • Long words
  • Long-winded philosophical discourse
  • Overstatement
  • Passive Verbs
  • Quotations
  • Repetition
  • Sentences broken up by citations
  • Stream of consciousness
  • Too many footnotes
  • Unclear intentions
  • Uninformative writing
  • Unnecessary detail
  • Unnecessary material
  • Verbosity
  • Writing you have to reread


StyleWriter 4 encourages the style preferred by all readers – clear, concise and readable.

‘Writers fear simplicity because they don’t want to be
considered simple-minded. In fact, though, there’s no better
way to strike your reader as an intelligent,
sensible writer than to simplify.’

Bryan A. Garner – Legal Writing in Plain English

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