We are often asked what exactly it is that we do, here at Penhire. Well, we write, we reply. If we are feeling confident or cocky perhaps, we might transpose the order of the words we use and say, We write well. It's not always easy, though, to convey the subtleties of the difference between, well, writing and writing well.
I recently came across Tom Stoppard's explanation. He used a cricket analogy which is particularly appropriate now that Ireland has reached the World Cup Cricket Super Eights and we are developing something of an appreciation of the game:
"This thing here, which looks like a wooden club, is actually several pieces of particular wood cunningly put together in a certain way so that the whole thing is sprung, like a dance floor. It's for hitting cricket balls with. If you get it right, the cricket ball will travel two hundred yards in four seconds, and all you've done is give it a knock, like knocking the top off a bottle of stout, and it makes a noise like a trout taking a fly.
What we're trying to do (as writers) is to write cricket bats, so that when we throw up an idea and give it a little knock, it might...travel.
Now, what you've got there is a lump of wood of roughly the same shape, trying to be a cricket bat, and if you hit a ball with it, the ball will travel about ten feet, and you will drop the bat, and dance about shouting, 'ouch!' with your hands stuck into your armpits.
This (cricket bat) isn't better because somebody says it's better, or because there's a conspiracy by the MCC to keep cudgels out of Lords. It's better because it's better."
I might not have ended any sentences with a preposition but probably couldn't have said it better myself!