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Updated by Christopher Gerben on Dec 02, 2017
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Examples of "good" writing style

Post at least one piece of writing, website, or visual that you think displays unique, captivating, or engaging style. Feel free to explain why you think so. We'll return to these examples in the coming weeks. Cut and Paste from somewhere else (e.g. a book) or link to an online source. Remember to include a URL so we can find the original source!

Are Childfree Adults "Selfish"?

I've been overthinking this post since reading Style, but I kept coming back to this piece. Full disclosure, the author is a mentor and friend, but, even if she wasn't, I would still think her style, tone, and argument approach are compelling, making the piece an example of "good" writing.

Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography - Language

The always excellent Stephen Fry on language, correctness and style. The kinetic typography is very nice to look at as well, but I would advise not to let it distract you from what Mr. Fry is actually saying :)

Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals " SENG

Although this doesn't seem emotional or shocking, this is a good example of good writing style to me. The topic of existential depression in gifted children (which I wrote my philosophy senior thesis on in undergrad) is an extremely complicated topic that must be handled sensitively, since there are children involved. What I took almost 20 pages to explain, Webb explains in one short article that flows nicely and never drags on. That takes good style.

11

How "You Do You" Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture

How "You Do You" Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture

This is a New York Times Magazine commentary on popular culture by Colson Whitehead based on the phrase "You Do You". He opens with the parable of the frog and the scorpion, or what I once heard as the fly and spider, where one animal decieves the other and kills them. When asked why, in Whitehead's version the frog says "you do you" in the fly its the spider who says "its who I am". Both have the same concept. This opening peaks an interest on what Whitehead is going to explore. It's simple, concise and leading, which are markers of good writing. He continues to discuss how sayings like this evolved and how they are a refection of our society as a whole. He also has an interesting take on the Hip Hop culture and its influences to modern society.

20

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.

Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something—an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago. For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man’s, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound, and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever."

F. Scott Fitzgerald's incredibly poetic language has always been organized in a deceptively structural way and flows with elegance. This particular passage has stuck in my mind from the moment I first read it and demonstrates the mastery and effectiveness of his poetic style of prose.

24

Betty Smith's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"

In "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", Betty Smith does a superb job of depicting the protagonist Francie and the world she lives in From the opening page of Smith's book below, the reader can vividly see Francie on a hot summer's day under a tree in her backyard in Brooklyn. The flowing language and clear imagery in this book can transport it's audience to another time.

CHAPTER ONE

SERENE was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912.
Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prairie was lovely
and Shenandoah had a beautiful sound, but you couldn't fit those words into Brooklyn. Serene
was the only word for it; especially on a Saturday afternoon in summer.
Late in the afternoon the sun slanted down into the mossy yard belonging to Francie Nolan's
house, and warmed the worn wooden fence. Looking at the shafted sun, Francie had that same
fine feeling that came when she recalled the poem they recited in school.

This is the forest primeval.
The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss,and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld.

The one tree in Francie's yard was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It had pointed leaves which
grew along green switches which radiated from the bough and made a tree which looked like a
lot of opened green umbrellas. Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its
seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of
neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but
only in the tenements districts.
You took a walk on a Sunday afternoon and came to a nice neighborhood, very refined. You
saw a small one of these trees through the iron gate leading to someone's yard and you knew
that soon that section of Brooklyn would get to be a tenement district. The tree knew. It came
there first. Afterwards, poor foreigners seeped in and the quiet old brownstone houses were
hacked up into flats, feather beds were pushed out on the window sills to air and the Tree of
Heaven flourished. That was the kind of tree it was. It liked poor people.
That was the kind of tree in Francie's yard. Its umbrellas curled over, around and under her
third-floor fire-escape. An eleven-year-old girl sitting on this fire-escape could imagine that she
was living in a tree. That's what Francie imagined every Saturday afternoon in summer.

2

Risks Abound as Reporters Play in Traffic

Risks Abound as Reporters Play in Traffic

I found this recent article by David Carr on the New York Times website. I think he's an excellent writer. He's a seasoned journalist who lived a very textured life. He provides interesting incite into new trends and advances in media and technology. In this article, he brings up the idea of paying journalists by how many unique viewers they get from an article. He supports his findings with quotes from individuals he interviewed and gives great context into the journalism world based on his own experience.

Rachel Maddow: Reaching the limit in Afghanistan?

I read RM's book "Drift." I believe her article (and book)is an example of good writing style. Her writing is clear and concise, and easily accessible.

5

Europe's Most Beautiful Villages

Europe's Most Beautiful Villages

The style and flow of her writing is almost flawless. Every word feels as if it slips so easily off the lips. The words create a vivid picture in your mind, taking you to where the author wants you to go. She's very descriptive without overdoing it. Instead the descriptiveness draws you in and makes you want more.

6

A desperate tale by Junot Diaz

A desperate tale by Junot Diaz

When thinking of an example of good writing style, the first passage that came to mind was this post which I read on Oprah.com at least two or three years ago. Author Junot Diaz gives a testimony of the despair he experienced when writing his novel. It's titled "Becoming a Writer" because, as he mentions at the end, his story is not about how his novel came to be. Instead, it's about how he came to realize that in spite of the hardship he experienced, there is nothing else he would rather do with his life than write. The essay is written in conversational style, breaking lots of grammatical rules. There are sentence fragments and way too many adverbs. However, the conversational style works because it helps readers to feel Diaz's despair and empathize with his experience. ( http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Junot-Diaz-Talks-About-What-Made-Him-Become-a-Writer/2)

Amnesty International Study Finds Executions Rose in 2013

Despite a long-term decline in the number of countries practicing capital punishment, publicly disclosed executions jumped nearly 15 percent in 2013 compared with a year earlier, largely because of "virtual killing sprees" carried out by the authorities in Iran and Iraq, Amnesty International said in its annual report on death-penalty trends.

Dear Brooke: On 'Alice in Arabia' and the White Savior Complex

This is clearly a deeply personal issue for the author and her conviction comes through, making the piece compelling and persuasive. Before reading the article, my perspective was already aligned with the author's and reading this piece strengthened my point of view.

9

Good Example of Writing - In a Blog

Good Example of Writing - In a Blog

In Good Company Blog.
I love following this blog. Although it's business related, and not necessary associated with writing, the blog is informative, applicable to our everyday personal lives and business lives, and very well written. YMG

If You Laugh Does It Mean You're Prejudiced?

I think this piece succeeds in part because the author writes in a style as if he is exploring the topic along with his readers. The title itself is written as a question, which speaks to the myriad interpretations and experiences that people may have in the context of derogatory jokes as tellers, listeners, laughers, protestors, etc. The author goes on to ask many different questions in the article, allowing for the possibility that each reader's experience my be unique. The writer himself describes how he is "unsure" of how to resolve his feelings on certain types of humor. He ends the piece by repeating the phrase, "I think...," indicating he is not trying to be an expert or the final word on the subject. Although its clear he has strong feelings on the subject, the piece is accessible because the author himself is so accessible.

The daily email newsletter to start your day - April 1st, 2015 - theSkimm

theSkimm is a successful company completely based on how they used their specific voice to present the top daily news stories. If that isn't a "good" example of voice, I don't know what is! I enjoy reading it every morning because it is readable, insightful, funny, relatable, and very informative.

What's That? You Want to be Buried How?

Despite the morbid theme of burial practices, NY Times writer Casey Schwartz creates an easily readable article. By including anecdotes, many personal, I felt Schwartz did a good job of making the piece not only about burials, but about family communication. The piece was relatively casual in its language, which I feel is a good way of introducing the theme (and some of the practices in the piece) to the reader.

15

The Simple Style of Robert Frost

The Simple Style of Robert Frost

Robert Frost is my favorite American poet, conjuring images with simple words and evoking feeling with deeper meanings behind the words. Enjoy two of his most well-known poems where his easy style immediately draws you into gentle, quiet scenes.

Chimamanda Adichie: Why can't he just be like everyone else?

Tackling such a touchy subject (in the eyes of the African audience), by opening with an appeal to pathos and ending with logic scored points with at least one of Chimamanda's audience members, me. Usually not a fan of long articles, especially op-eds I would deem this one thorough rather than lengthy, and convincing through equal appeals of emotion and logic. I appreciate the manner in which she tackled the subject and combatted all the regular arguments the opposition usually throws up. This article has style and class, and in a debate where there is little room for compromise and understanding, I think Chimamanda manages to bridge the gap between two extreme schools of thought from a position of neutrality and humanity - arguing not for self, but for democracy and a more humane approach to legislation and condemnation... Bravo!

By Chimamanda Adichie I will call him Sochukwuma. A thin, smiling boy who liked to play with us girls at the university primary school in Nsukka. We were young. We knew he was different, we said, 'he's not like the other boys.' But his was a benign and unquestioned difference; it was simply what it...

Good Taste Doesn't Always Mean Good Style

I bought this pair of white suede platforms at the end of last summer and I was sure I was going to wear the hell out of them. They'd really well compliment a pair of peg leg jeans in their spectacularly gargantuan glory but they'd also serve as the most effective trick under flare leg pants, creating the illusion that I am 6 feet tall when in reality, I am absolutely not.

9 Qualities of Good Writing

There are two kinds of people: Those who think they can write, and those who think they can't. And, very often, both are wrong. The truth is, most of us fall somewhere in the middle. We are all capable of producing good writing. Or, at least, better writing.

19

"Why Kesha’s Case Is About More Than Kesha" By Lena Dunham

"Why Kesha’s Case Is About More Than Kesha" By Lena Dunham

When I saw the outcome of Kesha’s court case last Friday, I felt sick. Actually sick — I wanted to ask my Uber to pull over so I could throw up in a New York City trash can. The photos of her beautiful face crumpled with tears, the legally necessary but sickening use of the word “alleged” over and over in reference to the assault she says she remembers so vividly — it all created a special brand of nausea that comes when public events intersect with your most private triggers. I last experienced this when Rolling Stone botched a campus-assault narrative and as a result left millions of women exposed to doubt. I cried in a mini-mall in Brussels, imagining all the college-age girls suddenly changing their minds about coming forward against their rapists.

If you haven’t been following the case: for the last year and a half, Kesha has been trying to get out of a contract with her former collaborator and producer Lukasz Gottwald, known professionally as Dr. Luke (not a professional doctor). She has been shackled by a ten-year-old contract to Gottwald’s company Kemosabe, a subsidiary of Sony that controls both her recording and publishing — her entire livelihood as an artist and businesswoman. Here’s the reason she wants out: Kesha says that for ten years Gottwald drugged, raped, and emotionally abused her and controlled her creatively and emotionally through threats and manipulations. She explained that her dealings with Gottwald ultimately exacerbated a life-threatening eating disorder, which required rehab. When she concluded that continuing to work with Gottwald would kill her, she came forward and asserted herself.

Now Kesha has requested an immediate injunction that would allow her to begin to record without Dr. Luke. I think this seems like a pretty reasonable request. While the allegations of sexual assault and emotional abuse cannot be proven definitively, I think Kesha’s words speak for themselves: “I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke. I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way.”

Sony could make this go away. But instead the company has chosen to engage in a protracted legal battle to protect Gottwald’s stake in Kesha’s future. Although the company insists that Kesha and Gottwald never need to be in a room together and that he will allow her to record without his direct involvement, they are minimizing what Kesha says regarding how Gottwald’s continued involvement in her career would affect her physical well-being and psychological safety.

So let me spell it out for them. Imagine someone really hurt you, physically and emotionally. Scared you and abused you, threatened your family. The judge says that you don’t have to see them again, BUT they still own your house. So they can decide when to turn the heat on and off, whether they’ll pay the telephone bill or fix the roof when it leaks. After everything you’ve been through, do you feel safe living in that house? Do you trust them to protect you?

That explanation is really for the judge, Shirley Kornreich, who questioned why — if they could be physically separated as Sony has promised — Kesha could not continue to work for Gottwald. After all, she said, it’s not appropriate to “decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated.” Guess what else is heavily negotiated? The human contract that says we will not hurt one another physically and emotionally. In fact, it’s so obvious that we usually don’t add it to our corporate documents.

To be clear, Kesha’s case is about more than a pop star fighting for her freedom, or a $60 million investment in a shiny commercial career. It’s about more than whether Kesha can strap on her cool leotards and make another album, free from a man who she says terrifies her. It’s even about more than the systemic misogyny of the entertainment industry, or the way that women in music and film have long been controlled and coerced by abusive Svengalis and entities larger than themselves. (Think: the studio system of the ’40s and ’50s, when starlets were essentially chattel. Think: Ike and Tina Turner.) What’s happening to Kesha highlights the way that the American legal system continues to hurt women by failing to protect them from the men they identify as their abusers.

For example: 19 states in America still allow rapists to assert parental rights over children conceived through rape, yoking women (and their children) to their attackers for a lifetime, an unimaginable cycle of revictimization. But it’s real. The same man who violently assaulted you could get the right to cuddle the baby that resulted from that assault.

A huge part of Kesha’s argument rests on her lawyer’s assertion that Gottwald, potentially enraged by Kesha’s sexual-assault allegations, could make efforts to bury her subsequent albums, preventing her from publicizing and therefore profiting from her work. This kind of control is a cornerstone of domestic abuse, and it’s far too common: according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, financial abuse is an aspect of approximately 98 percent of abusive relationships. When a woman is not in control of her financial destiny, either because her partner is the primary breadwinner or because he makes financial decisions for the entire family, her world is made minuscule. Her resources evaporate. Fear dominates.

That’s not the only way legal ties can make it impossible for a woman to escape her abuser. Someone I love very much has been engaged in a years-long battle to allow her and her young daughter to move closer to where her successful business is (and away from her abuser). If he can’t control her directly, he will attempt to make sure that her choices are actually his. In some cases, victims of domestic violence can even be evicted from their homes for calling the police on their abusers. Yup, there are laws that allow landlords to kick tenants out if the cops are summoned for disorderly conduct of any kind — doesn’t matter who the “disorderly” one was — and this affects poor women most frequently. It’s why 20 percent of homeless women say they are on the streets because of domestic violence.

These women deserve better. They do not choose to have their reputations pilloried and their characters questioned as a tactic for getting what they want. What if we realize that the women who come forward have everything to lose, whether they’re pop stars or single mothers?

The fact is, Kesha will never have a doctor’s note. She will never have a videotape that shows us that Gottwald threatened and shamed her, and she will never be able to prove, beyond the power of her testimony, that she is unsafe doing business with this man. And no, none of this was in her contract. But what man, what company endeavors to keep a woman saddled with someone who she says has caused her years of trauma, shame, and fear? Fighting this fight publicly and in the legal system has already changed the course and tenor of her career forever. The lack of perspective on the part of Sony — the inability to look at the worth of a woman’s platinum records versus the worth of her soul being intact — is horrifying.

The public outcry about Kesha’s case has been truly heartening: the swell of shock and indignation from fans and fellow performers alike. It wasn’t long ago that women in the public eye didn’t have a loose-enough leash to reach out and support one another, for fear of losing all they had worked so hard to create. Instead they quietly watched on their televisions, hoping they wouldn’t be next.

Those days are over.

They are fucking done.

We are not scared anymore of losing what we worked for, of being branded hysterical or difficult, of being targeted and silenced by men in power. The women in the music industry speaking out for Kesha are proof. And their words will reverberate, inspiring the young women watching them for clues about the good life to speak up too. Soon, no one will accept shame and fear as the status quo. And so, while Kesha is indefinitely silenced, her voice has never been louder.

Lena Dunham is mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore.

Grammar Girl

Quick and Dirty Tips : Helping you do things better.

I have always loved Grammar Girl's style, which I think comes through very clearly in all of her "quick and dirty tips." Her branding as a whole is very well done, and her style is very much a part of that. Her content is engaging and easy to read, and her site is easy to navigate. When talking about websites, I think the layout of the site becomes an aspect of "good writing" as well; it is necessary to take into consideration the content, the placement of information, and the visual appeal, and Grammar Girl's site is a great example of this.

It's All Fun and Games Until Google Gets You Fired

A swift click to unemployment.

This article is an example of good writing because it was the only of its kind that I found that actually explained what the April Fool's prank was, and what the effects were. Elsewhere on the internet, I could only find the GIF image or Pun-ny headlines , but no story or explanation of what the mic-drop prank was or who was actually impacted. From those snippets, I was led to believe that all of it was silly and not worth further investigation on my part. However, this article changed my mind. The author doesn't assume that the reader already knows what the controversy is and she spends some time (but not too much) giving the background and context. The author quickly gets to the point once the context/framework is laid: how this joke went terribly wrong and had serious consequences for some people.

Diane Ackerman's lyrical, elegant style may seem out-of-sorts in this field, but it showcases how science can read like a narrative. She uses very descriptive adjectives and long, complex sentences. I was surprised that this was classified as "science" writing, and I'm sure you will, too! Please do not be scared off by this "science" article. You will forget that you are, in fact, reading an article from a science magazine. I picture this being adapted into a children's book.

Where does creativity hide?

Amy Tan has a personal and humorous speaking and presenting style -- this is also the style of her writing.