What makes good writing?
Good writing, what is it? Clinically polished grammar perfection? Clever wordplay and spin? Who knows, who cares. A journalists primary to job is to inform, explain and describe, all within the parameters of correct use of the English language and enthralling usage of the written word, all the while not straying too far from the point being made by your words.
As the pretentious, witty and borderline hateful 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde said “By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.” To some extent Mr. Wilde spoke the truth on the subject, especially when writing about music, the opinions and lives of musicians we write about help us to understand the heart and soul of the musician. The second hurdle is to put your understanding of the heart and soul of the musician into enjoyable and vibrant words.
Of course it is all too easy for a journalist to step into the realm of terrible, terrible writing, take unfortunate(and slightly creepy) Esquire writer Stephen Marche, whose 2012 interview with Megan Fox was hailed as “the Worst Thing Ever Written” by Vice magazine, in which cliché, creepy metaphors and overuse of said creepy metaphors where utilised to almost comical effect. This piece is a paragon of bad writing, the answers to the questions are often portrayed out of context, making Fox look even more stupid. To top it off Mr. Marche spends far too much time writing what appears to be love poetry “It’s not really even that beautiful. It’s closer to the sublime, a force of nature, the patterns of waves crisscrossing a lake, snow avalanching down the side of a mountain, an elaborately camouflaged butterfly.”
Of course from a creative writers perspective, some of the descriptive passages, taken out of context would seem to be rather beautiful, conjuring up beautiful literary landscapes. Understanding of context is what makes or breaks a piece of wordcraft. A science fiction writer giving long objective descriptions of scientific formulae, whilst technically relevant will win no favours, whilst a writer for a science textbook giving detailed descriptions of the potential of scientific theory will win even fewer favours.