Quick Tip:
The Real Meaning of "Good Writing"

Michael Masterson once said, "If any wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul."

No, wait. Goethe said that.

But I assure you, Masterson meant the same thing when he said, over the phone the other day, "You know what makes good writing? A good thought, tightly expressed. Clear thinking. If you haven't got that, it doesn't matter how pretty you make your prose."

How true … how humbling.

How many times have you tried to climb into a book dripping with delicious adjectives and adverbs … only to find it bores you silly?

How many tight, plot-powered novels have to sell out before the literary glitterati 'fess up and pay due homage?

Good copy sticks to the same principle. "One idea, tightly expressed," says Masterson, "is much stronger than a heap of notions tangled in a mess."

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Published: June 2, 2003

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