The Influence of the Classics: What Makes Great Writing?
- Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Great writing has an impact on the ear as well as the eye.
In today’s world, the use of audible books is increasing. Audio books are a great way to absorb great literature on the go. But you will notice that some books sound better than others, not only because of the performance of talented voice actors, but because of the audible beauty of the written words of an extraordinary writer. Great writing flows easily, has a subtle rhythm, and uses pleasing word combinations. As a writer, one test of your own written work is to read it aloud. Do any of the words strike you as discordant as you read it aloud? Does your tongue tend to trip over the syllables? If so, you may need to choose other words or restructure your sentences in order to enhance the audible beauty of the written word.
Great writing is quotable.
Have you noticed how often pastors and speakers quote from great writers such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Pope, Tolstoy, and many others? That is because great writing often includes very quotable statements: statements that incorporate great truths or observations about mankind in a simple, elegant form. Writers achieve this quotability by crafting their words carefully to produce a phrase that is easily remembered or has an unexpected twist that captures the mind and imagination. These quotations tend to have audible beauty as well. Great writing, like all great art forms, requires attention to subtle details.
Great writing reveals great truths.
The best writing is writing which reveals truth in a new way or inspires us to pursue truth for ourselves. Most often, these truths concern mankind: the endurance of the human spirit through great hardship, the effects of one man’s actions on the lives of others, the depravity of man in his natural state, the triumphs and tragedies that affect us all. However, the best literature, in my opinion, is that which reveals truths about God as well. As writers, we should strive to present truths, rather than the errors that afflict so much modern writing. Our readers should be wiser for having read our words.
As you read, use these standards to judge the writing of others. As you write, use them to make your own words rise to the level of “greatness.” Strive to inspire others by the words that you are inspired to write.
“Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”—Nathaniel Hawthorne
Amelia Harper is a homeschooling mother of five and a pastor’s wife. She is also the author of Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings, a complete one-year literature curriculum designed for secondary-level homeschooled students. In addition, she is an English tutor and a freelance writer who contributes regularly to newspapers and magazines. For more information, go to www.homescholarbooks.com.
Publication date: February 13, 2013
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