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How to Celebrate “Stomp Out Bad Writing!” Month

October 31, 2011
English: Teacher, speaker, trainer

The English teacher won't be smiling so much after he's read around 200 really bad compositions. Image via Wikipedia

 “Write about whatever you want to write about,” the English teacher said to his class as he paced across the room.  “You have 10 minutes to express yourself through your writing, and fill up the entire page.” 

“I don’t know what to write about,” a kid said, with a pen in his hand and paper on his desk. 

“Write about what you are feeling,” the teacher suggested.  “You have ten minutes.” 

“I still don’t know what to write about,” the kid blurted out. 

“Think about it quietly for a few minutes, so other students can concentrate while you decide what to write about,” the teacher said. 

“I still can’t think of anything to write about,” the kid complained. 

“Then just write ‘I don’t know what to write’!” the teacher finally snapped. 

The kid scribbled furiously for about ten minutes but at least was quiet.  When the teacher collected the assignment, he praised several students who had written in great detail about their feelings.  When he got to the struggling kid’s assignment, he noticed that the entire page was composed of sentences saying: “I don’t know what to write about.” 

The teacher crumpled up the kid’s (kind of) composition and stomped on it.  Outraged, the kid shouted, “Why did you stomp on my essay?” 

“Because you didn’t put any thought into it,” the teacher stated. 

“Are you kidding?” the kid retorted.  ‘That’s the first time I’ve ever written a whole page.”

 *****

BAD WRITING AND ITS EFFECTS ON LITERACY 

Bad writing is kind of like porn; we can’t really define it, but we know it when we see it.  Personally, I prefer porn over bad writing, but I’d rather read bad writing than watch bad porn (barely). 

Writing for the sake of writing can lead to lots of bad writing.  Teachers who have their students write frequently for the sake of writing will be frustrated by the low quality of their results.  Contests or challenges like “100 posts in 100 Hours” or “Write a Novel during a Football Game” will lead to lots of bad writing (except for the writer who has a novel already written and then claims that he wrote it during the football game, but nobody would lie about something like that).  Fiction writers who get paid by the book will churn out way too many books filled with bad writing. 

All of this encouragement of bad writing means that somebody has to read it, and sometimes that person is me.  Therefore, Dysfunctional Literacy proudly declares this month (whichever month it is when you happen to be reading this) “STOMP OUT BAD WRITING!” Month. 

WHY IS BAD WRITING BAD FOR LITERACY? 

Because bad writing makes people like me not want to read. 

WHY “STOMP”? 

We don’t want to “burn” books.  Burning books has such a negative connotation associated with it, and I live in a drought area where burning a book might cause an environmental disaster.  Plus, I’ve always thought Fahrenheit 451 was an overrated book, and I don’t want any anti-censorship guys giving me a hard time. 

So let’s get this straight.  If a private citizen burns a book, it’s free speech (unless you’re violating fire ordinances).  When the government burns books, then it’s censorship. 

Next, we don’t want to “throw away” bad books.  I gave myself a herniated disc a couple years ago by throwing away all my Tom Clancy books at the same time.  If you throw away your Tom Clancy books (a wise person probably wouldn’t buy them in the first place), throw them away one at a time. 

We “stomp out” bad writing because to stomp out something, we have to use our feet, and using our feet on somebody is often seen as an insult (or a fetish, depending on how you look at it). 

WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOMP OUT BAD WRITING? 

1.    Stop buying books from authors like Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Stephen King, Sue Grafton, and any other writer that publishes more than one book every two years.   I have no problem with authors getting as much money as they can (I’d like to be one of those authors), but we don’t have to help them scam us… unless you really like their (mediocre) books.

2.    Take your time with your own writing.  There’s nothing wrong with writing every day, but if you’re a blogger you might not want to publish everyday.  If you want to see bad writing, check out some of Dysfunctional Literacy’s posts from June where I was trying to write something every day.  I’m tempted to take them down, but they serve as a bitter reminder for me to publish a post or article only when I think something is truly ready.

3.     Protest.  Normally I don’t approve of protesting.  Even if I agree with the protestors, I find them annoying (which is probably why I like to write jokes about them).  But here’s an issue I can get passionate about.  Let’s make some signs and protest Stephen King and other authors who make their fortunes by writing too much.  After all, they’re 1%ers, and we’re 99%ers (the 99% that haven’t been published yet because their books keep undiscovered talents like us from… cough… I’m sorry, I couldn’t refer to myself as an “undiscovered talent” with a straight face.).

4.     Celebrate STOMP OUT BAD WRITING MONTH!!  By celebrating, we need to come up with our own challenges and contests.  Here are a few suggestions:

      a. The Spend a Month Revising and Editing your Best Post Challenge!

      b.  The Write a Novel in the next Ten Years Contest!

      c.  The Help a Struggling Blogger by Donating to his Tip Jar Paypal Account Campaign- no, I don’t have a tip jar.

      d. The Limit Yourself to Three Books per Modern Author Challenge

      e.  The One Star Review Campaign- Leave a bad review (but logically explain why it’s bad) for a bestselling novel. 

Bad writing will never go away, but by participating in “STOMP OUT BAD WRITING!” Month, we can support good writing and put a dent in bad writing.  Think about it!  If people like us don’t do what we can to stop bad writing, then who will?

 
3 Comments
  1. Samuel Johnson said if Shakespeare:

    “I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, ‘Would he had blotted a thousand…”

  2. Said OF Shakepeare. (I am dyslexic and heading for demented.)

  3. I don’t mind bad writing when someone is learning, but there is no excuse from people who should know better (including people who get paid for writing quantity over quality).

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