The Difference Between Good and Bad Writing

Question: What’s the difference between pretentious and good writing?

Answer: Adverbs and adjectives.

Yet sometimes, the right adverb or adjective makes all the difference.

The right adverb or adjective can bypass a gatekeeper and sneak in without resistance.

Question: What makes them right?

Answer: When there’s no other choice.

Here’s an example:


“Tell me why, you arrogant old git” bellowed the salty student.

“Not a chance in hell!” screamed the snarky teacher.


We’ve used multiple adverbs, adjectives, and verbs in the above. Let’s improve it:


“Tell me why?” said the student.

“Not a chance.” said the teacher.


We’ve made it easier to read without losing the meaning.

There’s more to this though.

As we write a story, we can show readers what our characters are like by their actions and reactions (not by telling them the teacher was arrogant, but by showing the teacher being arrogant).


“Tell me why?” said the student.

“You’re a waste of time.” said the teacher.


Whenever you read something and you start questioning it (in other words, something in the writing takes you out of the zone), it’s a strong signal it needs simplifying (probably this sentence does too).

PS. This took me years to get, but when the penny dropped, my writing improved.



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