Bad Writing: Good for Laughs and Learning

Abstract Blue Pencil2

Writers have many opportunities to ensure their manuscripts are ready to submit. We can take classes and workshops to acquire skills, both basic and advanced. We can gain feedback in critique groups and from professional editors and proofers. And the use of beta readers is essential. It’s natural to want to jump ahead of this process by relying on a spell-checker and our own proofreading skills, especially when writing short fiction.

The following is taken from a list I received in a writing class taught by Betsy James (the awesome author of Listening at the Gate). Most of the “bad” writing exemplified in the handout can be attributed to spell check errors and/or poor sentence structure, but many of the examples point to overwriting or an indiscriminate use of a thesaurus. There are also those that are just poorly written. All of these mistakes could have been caught if the writers had at least used beta readers. I’ve deleted some entries from the original list – if you’d like to read its entirety, go to “Crapometer got you feeling bruised and blue?” posted on the Miss Snark blog, January 3, 2006.

According to Miss Snark, the list consists of true excerpts from stories submitted to Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, with original spelling, punctuation, and syntax intact. When you’re done chuckling and maybe shedding a few tears (like I did), try rewriting some of the more bizarre excerpts to convey what you think the writer intended. Enjoy!


Weston was known for the firm but genital hold he had on his men. It was one of the reasons he was chosen for this mission over six other equally qualified men.

Freddy was in the habit of staring at Beverly’s legs as they peaked from her Susie Wong slit dresses. She had a dozen of them.

The eyes of the braver animals ran down my neck and spine.

“Bastard! I shall severe your soul.”

The afternoon was very calm but consolidated. The birds were singing but were not blithesome.

He groped in his trousers and came up with a dirty piece of trash which I thought he’d just throw away.

“Stand slow!” a voice rang out with hollow ubiquity.

When I thought of the poetics of such a confrontation in the blackness of eternity, I laughed sardonically, in a dry voice, to myself.

“Good morning, Anna, Lovely maid,” Logo said in a soft voice bowing slightly, “How nice to see your structured form again today.”

The two naked bodies, which were lying beneath the satin sheets, were no longer the people whom everyone, who was anyone, knew whenever reality was in existance.

“Oovil snetch,” he growled in his mind.

My shouted words were lost in the damp chill, and my legs were already beginning to bale out, filling my shoes quickly.

The willowy king stood tehre with his usually sick disposition. From the faint light in the hallway, his yellow glaring cat eyes pointed at him.

Kildo threw his waning arms around the large granite boulder.

Miles looked deep into those clear blue eyes who’s debts were infinite.

“Be good,” he called after her as he bit back the tears in his eyes.

Sudenly, all the eyes in the room rose from their fixed positions on the floor to stare at him.

Mona was on the liquilounge, her dark eyes pouring over him like warm jello.

John wasn’t at all surprised at the transformation of his body into what he believed were light waves.

Fearless, as he was dumb, he walked over to the edge of the ship.

They were human in every way but they owned the necks, heads, facial expressions were that of a chicken.

“Ejaculations aside, that’s one hell of a package to swallow!”

Of course, his eyes couldn’t help but embrace the pool in front of them.

Jake was not a man to show much emotion, but he found himself supressing the urge to smile out loud.

Ashala’s head felt like vermicelli slowly slipping off the platter of her sholders.

A pool of surpressedd sweat started building under his forehead.

Kincaid was an older man with sparse grey iron hair.

And he was damned attractive physically, too. When she looked at him she felt…unusual.

Instinctively, without thinking about it, he grabbed the woman and hugged her and then gave her breasts a couple of playful pinches. “Commander please,” she said as she blushed and began yodeling.

He gazed at what appeared to be an invisable column coming from an infinite distance.

He was tall, thin and bony, like a cadaver trying to remember something, what was it? oh yes! I’m dead, I shouldn’t be walking around like this.

There would not be many more darknesses before Lyra became a guardian, and if sheh was going to keep hes promises that she would still boil boldy as a guardian, she might as well practice.

Talan gestured at the controls. “Overheating of the glycgroms in the thermoperamulator. You know how it is.”

She is powdered, painted, and tearful, playing again one of her greatest rolls.

The man spoke a foreign tonuge to them which they followed with out question.

The faces of the children were tear stained and pained Zone Paw to move on.

Are you going to go up t her and say, (you have to pardon me I’m form another planet, Let’s get together for a life spand.)” The dwarf came back strongly.

“Marry me my beautiful moonlight Luna to this sun-born, non-stop make and viola!”

It seems occasionally events occur which had they not happened no one would imagine they could.

It ws a planet spinning around Proxima Centauri, an Earth like planet covered with an average of two miles of water.

He saw the cute way her curly hair floated on her head.

Kree’s voice grabbed my heart from behind.

A large serf of joy rode under Lisa’s face.

Sublimely, this time, and just by feel, light was even dimmer inside the war machine than merely beneath the overhang that had been gutted out for it keeping its resplendency restrained.

Despite the different meanings conjured up in each other’s head when the other spoke he knew that in this instance his image was hers.

Then his head, which supported his bushy brown hair, turned to look at his sister.

It was kind of bazaar for him to see his sister holding the arm of a semi-automatic machine gun.

I caress her cheek. She shutters.

He whetted his lips.

Image “Abstract Blue Pencil” courtesy of thaikrit /


Speculative Fiction Writer

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Posted in Writing Advice, Writing Fiction
9 comments on “Bad Writing: Good for Laughs and Learning
  1. patriciaawoods2013 says:

    Thank you for the laugh of the week. Next time I despair about a paragraph I have to rewrite I will recall these priceless examples. What a hoot! An excellent example of why we have to read what we write. Happy writing!

  2. patriciaawoods2013 says:

    Reblogged this on Patricia Woods and commented:
    This is a fabulous of what we need to remember as writers and editors! Read and laugh…this one will keep you going for a long time.

  3. nancyrae4 says:

    Thanks for the much needed laughs. Whatever happened to the terrifying Miss Snark? Her blog was dark the last time I looked.

    • KL Wagoner says:

      I’m assuming Ms. Snark is still a literary agent. She retired the blog but kept all the posts up for our perusal and amusement. In her retirement post of 5/19/07 (, for which she received 300+ comments, she writes: “Two years; two million hits (2.5 actually as of 5/20/07); yes, Miss Snark has run out of new things to say….You sent me questions, trusted me to snark your work, made “crapometer” an industry term and most of all, you gave me perspective on what it’s like to be on the other side of the slush pile.”

  4. […] Read this article titled “Bad Writing: Good for Laughs and Learning.” […]

  5. Sharon M Hart says:

    Just had to share these on Facebook.

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