Is Good Enough Good Enough?

So, your standard is good enough. Aren’t you settling for mediocrity? Not at all. You are doing the best work you know how to do. It’s good enough. Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time.

Let’s set some minimum standards.

Does your piece have a main point? Think high school English. Or Freshman Composition 101. What’s your thesis statement? Look for the one idea that ties the entire piece together. In journalism circles, we call this the focus statement. It’s a single sentence (or two) that makes a promise to the reader. If they read the words you have written they will learn (insert your focus statement here).

Think about a train. A focus statement is the engine that drives your piece forward. The details are the train cars connected to the engine, heading in the same direction, arriving at the same location.

Once you’ve picked your focus statement and the details, decide how you want to order them. Which cars are you going to attach to the engine? Are all of the details heading the same direction? Does it make sense for them to arrive at the same destination as the engine?

Every analogy breaks down somewhere. Here’s where this one breaks down. In real life, the engine of a train always comes first because it pulls the cars behind it. While the focus statement of your story should appear early in your text, you don’t have to begin with it.

If you’re writing or editing a short piece, you might want to lead with the focus statement. If it’s a longer piece, you might want to find an interesting story or example to begin with that illustrates your focus.

So, here’s a standard for good enough:

  • Find the main point of your story, the engine that drives the piece along.
  • Choose the details that support your main point, the cars that follow the engine.

If a piece meets these two criteria, then it’s good enough. Your writing style or the style of the author of the piece you are editing will improve with practice. Be willing to allow yourself of the person creating the content to be where they are right now today. And then to find a way to be better next time.

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