With all the bad and (closely second) mediocre writing out there, seeing real quality is refreshing for any level of word nerd out there. Assuming all the words are correctly arranged and grammatically sound, there’s lots more to consider when deciding how well-written it is.

Well-executed prose, a good story, a nicely balanced cadence of short and long words and sentences, along with a compelling flow of events, all contribute to upping writing’s value. When all of these components are on point, you can make an instruction manual worthy of a Pulitzer.

On top of the careful crafting that these elements embody, there are a few more things that make writing outstanding. Let’s demonstrate when writing becomes exceptional with a few example snippets from some of the best writers to ever put pen to paper.

When it’s so brilliantly succinct

“For sale: baby shoes, never used.” – Ernest Hemingway

Damn. Known famously as Hemingway’s shortest piece of literature, this tells a full story in six words. Six. Words. As you can see here, brevity sits atop its highest and shiniest pedestal. After reading a sentence like that, all you can do is gasp and relish in the genius as you re-read it multiple times to confirm the greatness. Yup, still there.

When it paints the perfect picture

“She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say ‘when.’” – P.G. Wodehouse

Well played, Wodehouse. Well played. Such colourful analogies are like a dose of adrenaline to an entire body of writing. Carefully timed zingers like this one inject the kind of life into prose that puts it in re-readable territory. It’d be worthwhile to make a permanent mental note of this baby.

When the message is timeless

“In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.” – Oscar Wilde

You would think this was written recently with its accuracy and relevance. Except it was written over 120 years ago. Back then it was just as true. What does that tell us? People will always be people. When writing taps into the human condition without using references that would date it to a specific period, it gains strength in timelessness. Mentioning names that are currently popular or trending gives your writing’s relevance an expiration date. And the way things are moving, that kind of shelf life is getting shorter and shorter.