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February 11, 2011

Know Any Bad Writers?

Believe it or not, there's an art, sort of, to bad writing. Mediocre writing seems to come naturally to many writers. Good writing takes skill and work. But really, really bad writing requires...

...an approach and a sense of deliberation that is unique and far beyond the normal level of thought and expression.

And, even worse, some of these monuments to bad, boring or even contradictory writing have made their way into works of popular literature.

If you discover any of these gems of near incoherence, you can send it to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/sticks.htm.

For instance, consider this line from a popular novel: "She wore a dress the same color as her eyes her father brought her from San Francisco." --Danielle Steel, Star

This sentence is a monument to disjointed thinking. A key to writing is coherence. This writer, however accidently, somehow lost track of what she was intending to write.

This is a common problem in writing; we have a clear view of what we intend to say, and after a quick glance, it seems that we actually did say what we intended to say. But then someone notices that, when looked at closely, the sentence doesn't quite say what was intended, in fact sometimes these sentences that pass layers of editors and copy writers doesn't even make sense.

If you want to try your hand at deliberate bad writing, there is ample opportunity.

Send your best stodgy, brain-dead and inept writing to - http://adamcadre.ac/lyttle.html.

This contest, and this approach to writing, was inspired by an actual writer who used this sentence as the opening line in a novel -
"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."
--Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

Yes, believe it or not, not everyone can be a terrible writer. If you think you have it in you, I encourage you to enter the writing contest. You can see details here - http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/. You only have until April 15, 2011. So get writing!

Send us any links or other resources that you think any teachers, students or even just normal people might find interesting or useful. Let us all know about words that make you crazy, aspects of language and expression you find challenging, and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, USA and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle, WA, USA). Morf is currently a radio host (http://www.tacoma.fm/) a newspaper columnist and a teacher of English at the college level.

Posted by mmorf at February 11, 2011 10:34 PM


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