Ed from OC

Bad, bad, bad writing

29 posts in this topic

A sample:

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual."

That's the winner from a San Jose State U writing contest. If you want examples of how not to write, check it out here. Very amusing, too.

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A sample:

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual."

That's the winner from a San Jose State U writing contest.  If you want examples of how not to write, check it out here.  Very amusing, too.

If this is the future of writing, I have one request. Take a knife, and here is my throat.

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If this is the future of writing, I have one request. Take a knife, and here is my throat.

From the website:

"An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), which has been made into a movie three times, originating the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword," and phrases like "the great unwashed" and "the almighty dollar," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

So, I hope you understand these are intentionally bad pieces.

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I like this one:

"It was high noon in the jungles of South India when I began to recognize that if we didn't find water for our emus soon, it wouldn't be long before we would be traveling by foot; and with the guerilla warriors fast on our heals, I was starting to regret my decision to use poultry for transportation."

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Here's my personal favorite. My friend and I both laughed hysterically when I read it. I'm still laughing now!

"Captain Burton stood at the bow of his massive sailing ship, his weathered face resembling improperly cured leather that wouldn't even be used to make a coat or something."

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I like this one:

"It was high noon in the jungles of South India when I began to recognize that if we didn't find water for our emus soon, it wouldn't be long before we would be traveling by foot; and with the guerilla warriors fast on our heals, I was starting to regret my decision to use poultry for transportation."

That one is absolutely hilarious (I would actually like to see where THAT story goes.)

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Actually, all the winning quotes you guys have posted here are carefully crafted, by experienced writers, not illiterate clods.

What is wrong with them, are deliberate incongruities in tone or content! :D

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If the person who said:

...that wouldn't even be used to make a coat or something.

was carefully crafted to sound horrible, then I pity the future of writing.

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Actually, all the winning quotes you guys have posted here are carefully crafted, by experienced writers, not illiterate clods.

What is wrong with them, are deliberate incongruities in tone or content! :D

Crafty bastards! :D

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Actually, all the winning quotes you guys have posted here are carefully crafted, by experienced writers, not illiterate clods.

In an older published collection of Bulwer-Lytton contest winners, one of the contest organizers said that entries in the contest can be divided into two groups: good writers pretending to be bad writers, and bad writers pretending to be good writers pretending to be bad writers.

For those who really enjoy this sort of thing, there are a number of published collections. I'm not sure how many are still in print, but you can find used copies on Amazon:

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

Son of "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night"

Bride of Dark And Stormy

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night: The Final Conflict

Dark And Stormy Rides Again

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Aren't they, in a sense, examples of good writing--since they achieve the effect they set out to achieve?

Humorous writing is a field of its own--as Harvey Kurtzman (who wrote most of the early issues of Mad magazine, in the 1950s) amply demonstrated.

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So, I hope you understand these are intentionally bad pieces.

What?! But I already burned all my manuscripts and quit writing!

Psyche.

I have to enter this.

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Aren't they, in a sense, examples of good writing--since they achieve the effect they set out to achieve?

Humorous writing is a field of its own--as Harvey Kurtzman (who wrote most of the early issues of Mad magazine, in the 1950s) amply demonstrated.

Although I don't know anything about Harvey Kurtzman, I agree with the general idea. I was impressed with how cleverly these opening sentences were conceived and executed for humorous effect.

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Here are some of my favorites from a previous contest:

"As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it."

"Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eeking out a living at a local pet store."

"Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then, penguins often do."

"Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor."

:D

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Here are some of my favorites from a previous contest:

"As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it."

"Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eeking out a living at a local pet store."

"Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then, penguins often do."

"Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor."

:)

It's been days since I laughed until I cried - thanks!

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I received “Why English teachers die young” through the Internet, so I can’t speak to its authenticity. However, I would be very surprised if anyone is able to finish reading it without laughing at least once out loud. Let me know.

“Why English teachers die young: Actual Analogies and Metaphors Found in High School Essays”

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

26. Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any pH cleanser.

27. She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

28. It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

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Peter- that had me rolling on the floor! Those are absolutely hilarious! I showed them to both my mom and brother who loved them too. Are there any more? Numbers 28, 22, 3, 16, 10, 9... pretty much all of them are sooo funny.

I'm definitely going to show my AP English teacher.

Zak

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I received “Why English teachers die young” through the Internet, so I can’t speak to its authenticity.  However, I would be very surprised if anyone is able to finish reading it without laughing at least once out loud.  Let me know.

Love it!

I'd title it "Why English teachers die laughing."

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Yes....those were hysterical! Thanks for posting them :).

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I cut my teeth on Edgar Rice Burroughs (hey, I was just a kid!). His Pellucidar series is freely available on the net. One funny sentence is one thing, but how about a string of them, beginning with the first sentence of the novel, and ending with the last? And all meant to be taken seriously (unless Burroughs was playing a joke on his readers). Here is the opening sentences to "At the Earth's Core":

In the first place please bear in mind that I do not expect you to believe this story. Nor could you wonder had you witnessed a recent experience of mine when, in the armor of blissful and stupendous ignorance, I gaily narrated the gist of it to a Fellow of the Royal Geological Society on the occasion of my last trip to London.

You would surely have thought that I had been detected in no less a heinous crime than the purloining of the Crown Jewels from the Tower, or putting poison in the coffee of His Majesty the King.

The erudite gentleman in whom I confided congealed before I was half through!—it is all that saved him from exploding—and my dreams of an Honorary Fellowship, gold medals, and a niche in the Hall of Fame faded into the thin, cold air of his arctic atmosphere.

While each specific sentence cannot claim top honors in a bad writing contest, the sheer number of them is noteworthy. The entire novel is written in the same spirit as these opening sentences. For a good laugh, do a search on the Internet and read the book for yourself. It's fast reading, nothing complicated (!), and the writing gets hilarious when the Pellucidarian savages and creatures enter the story.

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I disagree. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a talented storyteller, as in fact several sentences in your quote illustrate. The passage could be improved by alternating shorter sentences with longer. But Burroughs succeeds in arousing the reader's interest--just as he does in that classic opening line of Tarzan of the Apes:

I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other.

Unfortunately, he was undisciplined when it came to editing his work; in At the Earth's Core there's a sentence that stretches on clause after clause after clause, for nearly an entire page. His sometimes archaic language can also be irritating ("that I might").

His clumsy passages do reduce the effectiveness of his works--and his stature as a writer. He left himself open to attack. He was no Mickey Spillane (in whose novels I don't think you'll find a single awkward or unrhythmic sentence). But those who put up with his occasional clumsiness, are rewarded every now and then by flashes of good storytelling that would never occur to an untalented drudge.

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I disagree. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a talented storyteller, as in fact several sentences in your quote illustrate. The passage could be improved by alternating shorter sentences with longer. But Burroughs succeeds in arousing the reader's interest--just as he does in that classic opening line of Tarzan of the Apes:

I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other.

Unfortunately, he was undisciplined when it came to editing his work; in At the Earth's Core there's a sentence that stretches on clause after clause after clause, for nearly an entire page. His sometimes archaic language can also be irritating ("that I might").

His clumsy passages do reduce the effectiveness of his works--and his stature as a writer. He left himself open to attack. He was no Mickey Spillane (in whose novels I don't think you'll find a single awkward or unrhythmic sentence). But those who put up with his occasional clumsiness, are rewarded every now and then by flashes of good storytelling that would never occur to an untalented drudge.

Hi, Bill. Well, I won't argue that he didn't write grammatically correct sentences and had a great imagination. I also have to admit that I loved his books when I was in my early teens. If I were a pure reader, and uninterested in writing, I might still have no great problem with his style. The problem in many of his sentences (and the source of what I find humorous) is the sheer number of abstractions and fantasticisms. Just in that opening section that I pasted are:

in the armor of blissful and stupendous ignorance

The erudite gentleman in whom I confided congealed before I was half through!—it is all that saved him from exploding

faded into the thin, cold air of his arctic atmosphere

These sorts of phrases and sentences are rampant in his books. I don't read Burroughs primarily for nostalgia reasons or for the humor of his sentences. It's part of my study. Reading his books helps me to avoid the abstractive style in my own writing. The nostalgia and humor are pleasant accessories. I personally think that it was his great imagination which overcame the weakness of his writing.

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Almost anything by Carol Ann Duffy. In particular, this 'poem':

$

A one a two a one three four -

boogie woogie chou chou cha cha chatta

noogie. Woogie wop a loo bop a wop

bim bam. Da doo ron a doo ron oo wop a

sha na? Na na hey hey doo wah did.

Um, didy ay didy shala lala lala la,

boogie woogie choo choo cha cha bop.

(A woogie wop a loo bam) yeah yeah yeah

The worst thing is, I had to try to analyse that in an English Literature lesson.

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