What Good Writing is ‘Not’—The Don’ts and Big Nos of Writing

Hop on to the internet and enter ‘How to write well?’

Do you see a slew of guides for your perusal? Lucky for all aspiring writers and curious learners, the internet is your candy store with guides on every possible subject including this one. So, what good writing IS, you probably already know. But, what is it NOT? 

Honestly? Good writing is that secret sauce that includes some common ingredients with the general rules of English writing. Now, mix in some elements that you identify and create for yourself, and there you have it. (This is where the role of your very core personal style comes into play. No, I don’t mean that you make your own rules. Rather, you CHOOSE your own rules and see which ones fit your values, beliefs, perspectives and personality the best. Because, while writing is a lot of things, it is also a reflection of your innate style. Without that, you might as well have a computer to write your material. 

As for the ingredients of that ultimate secret sauce for good writing, spare a look below. This is what I believe you need to write well!

  • Creativity: To truly make that piece a work of art.
  • Grammar: To serve justice to the right English language and writing ethics.
  • Personal Flair: To throw in that unique touch that sets your writing apart.
  • Emotive Appeal: To infuse emotions because well, we’re not robots.
  • Empathy: To be able to step into your readers’ shoes and write what they want to read.

Now, you know what you need. But I say this with experience, you also got to be armed with the don’ts here. We all learn about the do’s but never learn about the don’ts, and trust me, they are just as important. So, here’s what I have learned to steer clear of when I’m stitching words together. 

Don’t Beat Around the Bush

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Say, setting the context of a piece aka the introduction is important, but what’s more important than that is knowing how much to introduce, to what extent, and to whom. For a social media copy, you’re talking to people who want to get a glance at your caption as they scroll through to the next one. For them, an introduction may or may not be needed; also because the creative visual sometimes takes that responsibility off the caption’s shoulder. 

Similarly, for a listicle blog, your introduction can be short, crisp, and engaging because let’s face it, the audience is there for the list and not that introduction. On the other hand, in an informative or educational article, your introduction can stretch a little to elaborate and explain the topic at hand. Nevertheless, you will instantly lose the attention of your reader if you stretch that introduction a bit too far than necessary. Thumb rules for the same?

  • Lead with a hook line. (Could also be a fact, a summarising copy, or an intriguing start to a story.)
  • Get to the point fast. (Don’t give multiple teasers!)
  • Keep it short and minimal. (If the context and the type of content permit so.) 

Don’t Throw in Big Words

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Let’s break that English writing bubble, shall we? Yes, people can see when you shove in big lesser-used synonyms in the middle of a sentence. And no, it does not create the impression that you were hoping to create. Here’s why!

  • Your reader may or may not always be well-adept with the English language. Even if they are, they may not be friendly with the vocabulary.
  • It breaks the flow and makes your readers stop to Google repeatedly until they just give up reading.
  • Heavy English words sound appealing only when they fit right into the context or the tonality of a brand/material. Throwing them in when the audience, platform, or the brand talking hums a different tune, only makes one sound unlearned. 
  • It makes you look like you are trying too hard to sound intellectual or well-read.
  • There is beauty in simplicity. 

Don’t Over Explain and Ramble On

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Of course, the purpose of some content is to explain, but that same goal fails to garner results when you take it a step further and indulge in over-explaining. This is also where understanding your audience comes into play. If you know your reader well, you will naturally know what they are looking for and where they are coming from.

So, when you write your piece, ask yourself what they want to know and what they already know. When you over-explain something, you are not only repulsing the readers away by boring them but also coming off as a snob. So, keep it simple and really TALK to your audience. 

Don’t Mix or Change Tones Midway

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There are many, yes, MANY writers who undermine the importance of a concrete writing tone and a writing voice. Again, this is also where the role of knowing your target audience and the brand comes into play. Study the persona of the brand, dive deep into their target audience, understand the platform it is writing on, and narrow it down to one tone or a gentle combination of them. 

Impactful writing is one that catches the tone of the brand and what its audience will instantly resonate with. Now, it is a common practice to blend different tones while writing one piece, but in that case, there is consistency and a seamless medley of the tonalities. It begins to sound unprofessional when two different tones start and end in a patchy consistency and don’t conjoin fluidly.

Don’t Digress and Lose Track of the Purpose

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It’s simple. It’s not powerful if it lacks a purpose. What is the purpose, you ask? Well, there may have been times when you started to write an article with zest but lost it midway, and ended up digressing from the main theme. This usually happens when you don’t have clarity on that one broad reason why you’re writing a content piece—that one purpose that you wish to fulfil with it. Whom are you writing for? What are you writing for? Is it to influence, sell, guide, or simply entertain the audience? What end goal do you want to achieve at the end? What prime messaging is it conveying? Ask yourself these questions, jot down the answers, and then define the main purpose of your content piece. Keep that as your prime focus and a guiding cue from the moment you begin writing up to the last word and even that final round of proofreading. 

So, how do you define good or bad writing?

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