Qualities of Good Writing
Qualities of Good Writing… Students often have problems in writing. These range from inability to choose topics and arrange ideas into a coherent text, ineffective choice of expressions and mechanical inaccuracies. Also read an article on Rhetoric And Writing. In restatement, the four main sources of writing problems are:
Content refers to the subject matter, the thoughts or ideas the writer wants to express. It refers to the facts, propositions and subpropositions the writer wants to document. Every writer has an abundant source of subject matter to draw on for writing: telephone calls, conversations, directions we give to people or people give to us, joy, humllliation and frustration we have experienced, etc. Content flows from the sum total of what we experience in our day to day activities. Careful observation is therefore very important in most writings. The writer should pay attention to the world around him, activate his senses so as to become familiar with different shapes, colours, tastes, scents, and texture.
The content of a narrative essay is the issue used in forming the plot or story line; the details of the description in descriptive essays; the body of the writing in letters and reports; the information given in expositions, and the pros and cons of argumentative essays.
What determines the content of an essay is the topic. One may be assigned a topic or be asked to choose any topic. Even when a topic is given one may discover that the topic is so broad that one needs to select some subtheme within the topic. For Instance, a new title for the topic “Discuss the need for coeducational institution in Nigeria” may be The Economic and Social Importance of co-educational Institutions in Nigeria”.
The following considerations should guide a writer in the choice of his topic
- Choose a topic that you know something about
- Choose a topic that you find Interesting
- Choose a topic that you can handle adequately in the time and space allowed.
- Choose a topic that is hinged on topical issues so that you can meaningfully improve the knowledge of your target audience.
The onus lies on the writer to decide what he wants to say about his topic. That is, the writer should form a point of view about his topic. This point of view which should be written down in a simple; concise and unified manner is called the thesis statement because it is a statement, a good thesis is written in a complete sentence. We shall discuss the thesis statement in the relevant subsection below. Let us state at this stage that it is the thesis statement that determines the content of the entire essay. This is because with the point of view fixed in the writer’s mind, he may search for supporting facts either based on his direct experiences discussions or books magazines, articles reports etc. Choosing a topic is a creative process. It calls for practical, common-sense techniques and guidelines.
The writer in searching for supporting facts should jot down on a blank sheet of paper all his ideas about the topic and his point of view. The relevant focus at this stage should be what and not how. The writer is advised to write down these points as quickly as they come to him and not bother about whether such Ideas are correct, relevant or good. The reason, according to psychologists, is that ideas are in association and easily trigger one another if the flow is uninterrupted. With a sharply focused subject, the writer is less likely to introduce irrelevant information.
Organisation or structuring of an essay refers to the ability of the writer to maintain unity, internal and external relationship among the component words, sentences and paragraphs such that the entire essay will form a logical whole. Under organisation, coherence (Internal consistency) and cohesion (external or vectoral consistency) are deemed as Important as the ability of the writer to ensure such a logical relationship that will make the Introduction, body and conclusion of the essay to dovetail naturally Into one another. The writer’s ideas should be fashioned and presented in such a way that a certain order can be identified. For Instance, in argumentative essays, the writer may organise his points in such a way that the stronger points come before the weaker points; and perhaps; the strongest point may be presented last for climate effect. However, to begin an argument on The Economic Importance of Mosquitoes” with the point that necter-sucklng female anopheles mosquitoes help in the pollination of flowers will set the writer on awkward grounds.
Professor Eko (1991) in her Effective Writing has outlined the qualities of efficient organisation as
According to her, unity implies that all examples, details and illustration must be directly related to the main idea, the thesis statement. On the other hand, coherence refers to “smooth progression of thought from sentence to sentence, from paragraph to paragraph and from one idea to the other”
The writer should also maintain a consistency of tone and point of view throughout his writing. Tone indicates the writer’s attitude towards his readers and how he expects them to read his work. It indicates whether the work is a formal explanation, a straight forward narration, a personal observation, an emotional tirade, a joke, a critical review, and so on. Tone may be varied by the use of point of view> tense, voice, etc. for instance, the first person “I”, the impersonal “one”, the instructive “you” or the objective “he/she” change the tone of a piece of writing.
Transitional words and phrases whether anaphors (reference to the past) or cataphors (reference to the future) are used to link sentences, paragraphs and ideas. Transitional words and phrases are used to: express sequence, emphasize a point, make consession, contrast two things, show similarity; give example, clarify a statement, conclude an argument, sum up an argument; and to draw attention back to the antecedent of pronouns and key issues in the essay through repetition of key terms and the use of parallel constructions. Examples of transitional words and phrases are: and, also, moreover, furthermore, in addition, first, second, third, again, intact, indeed, most important, certainly admittedly, though, although, eyen though, granted that, it may be true that, but nevertheless, however, on the other hand, yet, still, similarly, likewise, in a similar case, in the same way, in like manner, for example, for instance, as an illustration, consequently therefore, thus, hence, as a result, as a consequence, to sum up, in summary, finally, in conclusion, in short, he, his, himself, etc.
This has to do with the writer’s choice of words and construction of sentences. The writer is expected to provide maximum information in the clearest language possible. For example, it is easier to understand:
“I hope and thank God that you are healthy,” than “I hope you are swimming in the ocean of good health, if so doxology, if not tedium”.
It is easier to understand: This is your sister, Jane, writing you from the University of Calabar”, than “This is the voice of your sister Jane communicating this missive to you from the University of Calabar institution”. Also, a writer needs to be aware of his audience and avoid culture bound expressions or direct translations from his first language which could make his message difficult to understand. For example, a Nigerian who writes to a native speaker of English in London “My Friend got the job because he has long legs” is very unlikely to be understood. Choice of words and sentences should also not neglect the correct register of the particular subject area like law, journalism, medicine, literature, sciences, education, religion, agriculture, etc. For example, two witnesses to a court proceeding have the following reports to make:
First Reporter: The man who chaired the discussion of the problem went through everything that was said and asked the man the police brought to court to go home. He also said that nobody should disturb the man again.
Second Reporter: The Judge found the accused and guilty and therefore discharged and acquitted him.
In the above reports, it is easy to prefer the second report to the first. This is because the second reporter made effective use of the legal register as indicated by the words in italics. ‘On the other hand excessive use of jargon or register blocks meaning sharing instead of enhancing it.
Expression also encompasses the ability of the writer to avoid the use of dying metaphors, unwholesome and clumsy explanations, ineffective use of synonyms, antonyms and adjectives, idioms, phrasal verbs etc. A good writer should exhibit economy and simplicity in his choice of words, and clarity in his choice of sentences. Thus according to Strunk and White (in Eko, 1991:1),
You got to know som Qualities of Good Writing. Any student who wisher have great success academically must posses the Qualities of Good Writing. Possesstion of Qualities of Good Writing determines educational success.