Eight Characteristics of Great Writing

Have you ever read something and thought, “Wow!”? There’s a distinct difference between writing that’s good, and writing that’s truly great. One piece of great writing will differ immensely from another, but there are eight characteristics that all great pieces of writing contain.

They are:


Focus could arguably be the single most important characteristic of great writing. With a lack of focus, it’s nearly impossible to succeed in achieving just about all the other characteristics on this list. Focus is what turns a collection of random thoughts and ideas into a real piece of writing. It’s what allows the reader to stay with you from start to finish.

Poor organization can significantly impact your writing – and not in a good way. In fiction, good organization of the elements of your story is what keeps the reader interested and in suspense. In nonfiction writing, good organization is what makes it possible for the reader to understand the significance of the facts that are presented.

All writing must serve some sort of purpose – for the reader and the writer themselves. Purposeless writing is a waste of time. Every piece of writing must fulfill a purpose, whether it be to entertain, to inform, or to teach. There are many possible purposes, so make sure you always find one and keep it in mind while writing.

People have deep emotional capacity, and it’s feelings and emotions that make them relate to a story, love it, or even hate it. Great writing contains emotional depth; it makes the reader feel something. If writing evokes no emotions in a reader, it will be considered boring, bland, or forgettable.

There are many different styles, and every writer has their own voice. However, true style will be present in all pieces of great writing. Style can’t be well defined, but it is exhibited in the way a story flows and sounds. It’s cadence and powerful sentence construction. Writing that lacks style will seem awkward and unpolished.

In nonfiction writing, accurate facts are of course essential to your story. If you get it wrong, you’ll lose authority and credibility with your reader, and that’s the death of a writer. Fiction writing also needs accuracy – in the form of consistency throughout the story. Made-up details should stay the same, and any elements pulled from real life should be accurate, or at least believable (even in a work of fantasy, the unbelievable must seem believable).

Great writing will pull a reader in and fully capture their attention. It will speak to them, usually indirectly, and make them feel engaged and invested in what they’re reading. Skillful engagement is what gets them talking about your writing. It’s what makes them feel inspired.

Finally, no writing can be great if it shows a lack of proficiency for the mechanics of writing and language. Proper grammar, correct spelling, well-constructed sentences – all of these are essential. Writing that lacks proficiency makes the writer seem foolish, and it’s difficult for readers to get through.

Alayne Valentine is an avid writer and literature analyst who enjoys breaking down and analyzing novels. She loves to blog and often covers anything from formulating plots to using grammar checkers.

Photo Credit: theguru1