How to Know When Your Writing Sucks and When it Rocks

  • November 22, 2011 by Corbett Barr
  • 6 Comments

You don’t have to be the most eloquent writer on the block to write well. You don’t have to possess an incredible vocabulary, be a fountain of knowledge or know every nuanced rule of grammar.

Unless you’re writing to impress other writers or literary fiends, basic prose can accomplish a lot.

If you’re writing online, you probably want to either inform, entertain or inspire your audience. Ideally you’ll try to accomplish two or more of those at the same time.

So how do you know whether your writing is effective, or if it simply sucks?

How your audience reacts is one way to measure. If they share your work, leave comments or email you directly, you know that your writing struck a chord.

When your writing is great, people will praise you. Your readers will tell you how much you touched them, how it felt like you “read their minds” or that they shared your article or book with everyone they know.

The problem is, when you’re just starting out, you don’t have an audience to judge the reactions of. You never know if your writing is good, yet undiscovered, or terrible and repellent.

There is one way to know if your writing sucks when you’re just starting out. Ask yourself this question:

Are you boring yourself with your writing?

This question is the canary in the cole mine for writers. If you’re boring yourself, there’s little chance you’re wowing your audience.

Once you find yourself bored with what you’re writing, it’s time to run for the exit and search for a different mine to excavate.

Keep in mind, if you aren’t boring yourself with your writing, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s good stuff, but at least you’ve checked that one crucial box.

Next step: get an outside opinion from someone you trust. Ask her point blank what she likes about what you’ve written and what she would improve.

When I started this site, I had several conversations with my former high school English teacher to figure out what I was doing right, and what I was doing wrong. I’m not the most eloquent writer in the world, but she helped me use the tools I do have to accomplish my goals.

What about you? How do you know if you’ve written something great or something mediocre? Have you ever gotten an outside opinion?

Have you ever bored yourself with your writing?

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


Think Traffic is now The Sparkline. Click here to check it out.

Or View The Archives

Shevonne November 22, 2011 at 5:51 am

I can tell when my blog posts are mediocre because no one seems to notice on any of the social networking sites that I’m on. Another indicator is how it fares in an analytical way. It’s the same if the blog posts are great. What I usually do is wait awhile, and then take the mediocre blog post and rewrite it to make it great later.

Great post!

Sean Davis November 22, 2011 at 5:59 am

I never thought about rewriting a post… good idea.

I would have to say that the post title plays a big role too. Some people probably never even click into the posts from a social media site if the title doesn’t make it hard for them not to.

Sean Davis November 22, 2011 at 5:56 am

I definitely don’t bore myself with my writing but I’m not sure how it touches others at this point. My blog is pretty new and I have yet to get a ton of comments.

I know that I really used to touch people through social networks. I swear I would use every character space that the site would allow to inform, entertain, or inspire… and it worked. People loved my short blurbs and would even come down to the first comment (Facebook) to read a few hundred more words if I asked them to.

Not wanting to waste my words anymore, I put an end to my Facebook ways and started writing on my own blogs. SuccessOnMyMind.com and IamSeanDavis.com. It kind of sucks because the feedback is gone. All I can do is assume that the few people who read my writing feel the same as my old “friends” did.

I really need to ask someone to evaluate my writing. I don’t know who, though.

Madeleine Kolb November 22, 2011 at 11:56 am

Hi Corbett, You’ve been writing lots of really great inspirational stuff lately. Kudos to you!

I’ve been writing for a long time. I even wrote a 96-page report on sewage years ago, and it was so good that the agency I wrote it for had it reprinted as essential background information.

Two other outside opinions: One from my daughter who sent me an email, saying that my blog is really good, and that she wasn’t just saying that. And recently, I was chosen as a finalist in a writing contest on the topic “It’s Never Too Late To….” It was sponsored by Impowerage.org, based in Vancouver B.C. That was a big thrill.

Andrew Rowley November 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm

I’m actually building up my new blog right now and it took a lot of reading your blog to get this point dude. I think that my writing has always been somewhat compelling since I am a very challenging person and I like controversy without trying to step into the shock realm because I feel that is just cheesy and lame.

I can usually tell if my writing is good or not by simply writing it. Like you said, if you get bored writing it, you’ll knock them out cold reading it if they last that long lol.

Usually when I get opinions whether from professors, peers, relatives, or close friends they usually question some things which lets me know where I get too carried in but apart from that the response is always positive and usually shared.

Also, I know my work will suck eggs when I feel I’m trying too hard. That’s almost a universal fail signal for me.

KC @ PsychoMoney November 23, 2011 at 5:46 am

Good points. I need to work at getting more outside opinions on my blog.

Comments on this entry are closed.