Subjective versus Objective Literary Merit

I noticed a lot of people don’t understand the difference between subjective and objective literary judgement (aka measuring literary quality). Here’s a list breaking everything down:


  • Art – emotion, theme
  • Story – the internal journey the main character takes (isn’t limited by genre or target audience)
  • Style – a writer’s way with words


  • Craft – balancing conflict, pacing, story arc(s), and tension through action, description, dialogue, and narrative via varying literary techniques
  • Spelling and grammar – not only spelling a word correctly but also using said word in proper context
  • Syntax – the way parts of speech are arranged in sentences

One can judge the quality of writing based on those objective factors.

To objectively judge craft, ask yourself questions like:

  • Are the chosen elements and techniques balancing story with plot? (For instance, if the work is an action-adventure, but description outweighs action—in any form—9:4, there’s an imbalance.)
  • Would technique A have worked better—for sections X and Y or for the overall work—than technique B?

To objectively judge spelling and grammar, ask yourself questions like:

  • Are homophones and homonyms used correctly?
  • Is this word spelled correctly?

To objectively judge syntax, ask yourself questions like:

  • Does the subject and the verb agree?
  • Are clauses used with their proper corresponding parts of speech and punctuation?
  • Are there too many clauses between the subject and the verb?


Questions? Comments? Objections?

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