I was wondering....

When you are critiquing someone's writing, and you tell them it's well written, what, exactly, are you saying?  What facet of that person's writing are you referring to?  Or does your "well written" comment vary from writer to writer?  Do you sometimes mean its grammatically well written and other times think the voice is right on?  Can you tell they did a sound -ly search and omitted all extraneous adverbs and adjectives?  Are the sentences clear and concise?

What does well written mean to you?

(And for those of you with hyphen issues, like me, I had to look this up.

This book is well written. (The compound modifier comes after the noun, so no hyphen.)

This is a well-written book. (The compound modifier comes before the noun, so it gets a hyphen.

Hyphenate the elements of a compound modifier only if that modifier precedes the noun.       

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  1. For me, well written doesn't refer to the storytelling but to sentence structure, grammar, word choice, flow. All those things. Though I find that when a story is well written, often the story is good too.

  2. This is a very good question. I agree with Laura.

  3. Sometimes I think critiquers say it's well written when they have nothing better to say. Maybe because they can't find anything bad to point out (hopefully) or because they can find anything good specifically to mention (preferably not).

    The best critiques are specific. (Not to be confused with nit-picky.) The wording flows. The plot is too slow in this chapter. There is a lack of conflict here. I like this character's voice...

  4. I'm guilty of writing that as a newbee critiquer. For me it meant that the work has possibilities, but really it offers very little for a good critique. I since learned how to write one. I hope. =)

  5. For me it mostly means the grammatical stuff, but it can be a generalization about the entire thing, especially if I haven't specified any negatives.

    I use too many hyphens - even when they're "legal."

  6. I think it means something different to everyone. I always give more specifics than that. To me a clean book means no grammar or sentence structure issues, a well written book would be that and a good plot, good characters, that kind of thing.

  7. urgh. I try not to use that phrase without more explanation as much as possible. Because you're right, it really conveys no message. And how do you know it's not a cover for "this stinks"?

    So the answer: for me it can mean all kinds of things. Hope you're feeling better~ :o) <3

  8. thank you all. i'm so glad i asked. sometimes i feel silly asking questions like this when i feel like everyone else probably already knows the answer. so it's good to find that it's not really a "one size fits all" comment. christy

  9. 'well written' is generally a term I use for 'lack of wrongness'. It means it is relatively error free and the writing is a match for the story. I think of it as 'sound'. I generally think of it as accompanied by either a positive or a negative endorsement of some OTHER feature because it sort of lacks meaning all by itself other than 'no glaring mistakes'.

    A well-written book with a great plot, or engaging characters is an endorsement, where a well-written book but it didn't quite grab me, not so much. (that latter sentence seems a kiss of death because 'it's not right, but they can't peg WHY, so it is hard to fix)

  10. I think it really is different for everyone! To me I take it for what I'd think: When there is a strong plot and well rounded characters. I figured grammar and punctuation are not even a factor. Funny how everyone views it differently.

    YA Tournament of Heroines: Hermione is my Heroine... Care to join?

  11. I like Hart's explanation of "lack of wrongness" coupled with Laura's idea that it also is probably a good book! My explanation is usually "all the words make sense in the order they're in" but I would always follow it up with something more specific (like plot or voice).

  12. To me, well written means that I forget I'm reading.

  13. I guess when I tell someone something is well-written I'm referring to the sum total of the piece - how it flows, how the mechanics are put together, whether the story grabs me and makes me want to read more. There might not be one specific thing that jumps out, so the general 'well-written' comment works best. (Or I say 'well-written' and then go on to say exactly why.)


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