What is good writing?
What is good writing?

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

What is good writing?

2.6.1 Philip's essay


  • a reasonable understanding of the general issues Ellis deals with

  • a good basic structure

  • some good sequences of argument

  • a promising feel for language

  • fluency of expression


  • the wrong title and consequently a lack of focus

  • argument is loose-knit in places – some points are not relevant

  • occasionally misrepresents Ellis

  • uncertainty regarding the overall argument, so arrives at a weak conclusion

  • poor punctuation

  • the language is artificial at times – striving for stylishness, instead of clarity

Overall, Philip's essay shows plenty of promise. He develops some useful ideas and has the makings of an effective writing style. However, there are some points to work on. If I were his tutor writing to him, this is what I would say.

Dear Philip,

Well done for getting yourself over the hurdle of sending in your first essay especially as it's such a long time since you last did this kind of writing. The essay shows a lot of promise. You obviously worked hard with the Ellis article and you have done a good sound job of getting your thoughts together for this essay. The structure is very solid and, what is more, you have a nice fluency to your writing which gives you a good base to build on.

Where you have come a bit adrift is in not working with the exact title you were set. This made it hard for you to come to a strong conclusion at the end. Also, as you will see from my notes on the script, there are some places where your line of argument could be strengthened. And you will need to spend a bit of time working on your punctuation, as well as a few other points of grammar and choice of words. None of these should present a major difficulty – they will gradually come right with practice. Just make a habit of reading my markings and notes carefully and then work out how you can make things read more easily.

Broadly, you are doing exactly the right thing – which is to pitch in and work as best you can with the ideas you have been reading about. As you keep doing this you will find your style getting sharper and your grip on your subject more secure. Keep up the good work.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus