What is Good Writing?

Updated: Feb 26

Answer: The great windmill that most writers in all languages all over the world tilt at, as their life's quest.

The major Australian novelist, Christina Stead, once joked about the academic definition of some writing as having 'high literary quality'. In 1972 correspondence with the long-time editor of the journal, Meanjin, Clem Christesen, who had asked her for a short story to publish, she quipped,

'I don't know about the "high literary quality" you mention; high literary quality is in the eye of the beholder. (Though you're a good beholder.) Perhaps, though, later on, I'll have a chunk of prose with h.l.q. But more at the moment I cannot do.'

So who can believe in high literary quality? When might any of us attain it? One thing is sure ... if we do there'll still be vociferous debate about whether we have, and rarely will such success be recognised in cash recompense for the hours of labour expended.

Members of Sydney School of Arts & Humanities' writing meetups tried their hands and minds at pinning down writing 'goodness'. The first in our list is definitely the most succinct:

Good writing is good reading.

Roger Guinery

Writing is a form of communication, and the main point of communication is to convey a message. For successful communication to take place, the intended message needs to be understood. So, it seems to me that good writing is writing that is easy to understand.