Bad Writing?

8 Dec

Frequently, when I read writing magazines and how-to-write books, I will come across examples of ‘bad writing’, painstakingly explaining why what someone had written is wrong and how it ought to have been written. Leaving aside examples of pure spelling errors, malapropism or confused grammar that make it difficult to untangle what the writer is attempting to say, I invariably find myself undertaking the mental exercise of contextualising said ‘bad writing’ so that it is, in fact, ‘good’.

Indeed, with the noted exceptions, I would go so far as to say that there is no such thing as ‘bad writing’, merely writing that has been misplaced from its proper place. What I mean by that is that context is everything when it comes to writing. Divorced from context, the greatest of writing can sound stilted or stupid. In the right context, even the sloppiest seeming writing can suddenly shine.

What I am really trying to say in this little piece is what I have said several times before, that the writer must never slavishly follow the dictates of others. Consider what people have to say – after all, you may have just written gibberish or used the wrong words, rendering your intended brilliant piece of prose into rubbish – but do not meekly accept that an accusation of ‘bad writing’, whether that something is over-written ‘purple prose’, that it is unclear or that it is not correct grammar, without thinking it over first. If you followed the suggestions of some advocates of ‘clear’ writing, stories would be blandly written indeed in a form of language bearing little relationship to English as it is used in the real world! And, if you find that your wonderful piece of writing doesn’t actually work where it is, don’t just throw it away, consider keeping a note of it for use where it would fit perfectly at another date. Happy writing!


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