What is good writing?
What is good writing?

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What is good writing?

3.6 Taking an objective, analytical stance

One of the things I said an essay should be is ‘objective’. What does that mean? Being objective about something means standing back from it and looking at it coolly. It means focusing your attention on the ‘object’, on what you are discussing, and not on yourself and your own (subjective) feelings about it. Your ideas should be able to survive detailed inspection by other people who are not emotionally committed to them.

An essay should argue by force of reason, not emotion. You must make deliberate efforts to develop a style of writing that is cool, dispassionate and fair to all sides. That means you yourself must be open to doubt and criticism. Your arguments should be presented in the spirit that your reader might not agree with them. And if you want to dispute a claim someone else makes, you are expected to have analysed that claim carefully, to argue your case and provide evidence for your point of view, rather than setting out to criticise or cast doubts on your opponent's character or motives. You should be respectful to other writers. You should assume that you are writing as a member of a community of equals, all of whom are intelligent, open-minded, fair people. You should write on the assumption that your readers are also members of that community, and that they will be interested only in your reasons for thinking what you do. They will not be interested in you as a person, or in your ideas because they are your ideas.


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