What Makes Writing Good? An Essential Question for Teachers


e-mail A-Nauman@neiu.edu.

e-mail T-Stirling@neiu.edu.

e-mail ABorthwick@nl.edu.


The question of what makes writing “good” touches several important areas of classroom writing instruction: assessment and evaluation, instruction, and teacher response during one-on-one conferences. The current paper examines contemporary views of what makes writing “good,” along with the classroom implications and limitations of these views. In addition, a research study investigating different perspectives on what makes writing “good” is reported. The study included 60 classroom teachers from urban high-needs schools as well as suburban schools, preservice teachers, and professional writers. A Q methodological analysis identified three perspectives. Participants expressing perspective 1 defined good writing as good thinking and communication. In Perspective 2, structure and clarity were considered most essential to good writing. In Perspective 3, purpose, voice, and conventions were emphasized. Participants' views differed greatly on the need for predictable organization in writing, the value of surprise, and the necessity of correct conventions. Classroom implications are discussed.