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Bad Sentences in Classic Literature: The Shining by Stephen King

December 27, 2016
(image via wikipedia)

(image via wikipedia)

The Shining by Stephen King might not be a classic yet, but it probably will be.  It was written in the 1970s, and people still read it today and it’s still relevent, so I’m guessing that people will still read it 50 years from now.

Even though The Shining is a great book, it has some bad writing in it.  At least, by Stephen King’s standards, there are some bad sentences.    In his book On Writing,  Stephen King maligns the adverb with one of the all-time most famous quotes about writing: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs,…”

When the Modern Master of Horror equates a part of speech with eternal damnation, you have to take that seriously.

On the other hand, Stephen King uses a lot of adverbs in The Shining.  What am I supposed to believe, Stephen King’s opinion of adverbs or The Shining?

The following bad sentences from The Shining are within a few pages of each other in “Chapter Ten- Hallorann”:

“This time they all laughed, even Danny, although he was not completely sure what the joke was,…”

The word completely wasn’t necessary.

“It (the main room) had cleared greatly during the half hour they’d spent in the kitchen.”

The word greatly wasn’t necessary.

“The nuns who had been sitting by the fire were gone, and the fire itself was down to a bed of comfortably glowing coals.”

The word comfortably does describe the degree of glowing, but it might not have been the best adverb to use, and I’m not passionate enough to come up with a better one.

A sentence doesn’t need an unnecessary adverb to be a bad sentence.

“Halloran commenced to tour them around the most immense kitchen Wendy had ever seen in her life.”

This is a sentence that my writing teachers would have red-marked.  Of course Wendy had never seen a kitchen like that IN HER LIFE, my instructors would have said.  When else would she have seen a kitchen like that?  In her after-life?  In her pre-life?  When she was fetus?”  In other words, the phrase “in her life” wasn’t necessary.

Also, the phrase “commenced to tour them around” is wordy.  Replacing that with “toured them around” or “showed them around” would have been more direct and less clumsy.

And below is my favorite bad sentence in The Shining:

“He (Halloran) turned to the Torrances as she (Sally, a young maid) strolled away, backside twitching pertly.”

Haha!  Stephen King actually wrote backside twitching pertly.  To be fair, but this was written in the 1970’s.  Maybe backsides twitched pertly back then.  I’m not sure what backsides do nowadays because I don’t usually write about backsides.  I think they sway a little bit.

If I ever used the phrase “backside twitching pertly” in my conversations at work, I’d get fired or sued.  There are some things that polite folk should never mention in public, and one of those is “backsides twitching pertly.”

That’s okay.  The Shining is still The Shining, and I’ll think it’s great no matter what.


I read The Shining when I was in junior high school decades ago.  Back then, I’d get in trouble for saying the word “crap.”

Looking back, it ticks me off so much that I wrote this ebook, Crap Is NOT a Bad Word!

  1. Stephen King Is my fav author in the whole world but for once I agree with you, those adverbs are indeed not necessary. Did I already tell you that I’ve read a book by James P. That has 3 adverbs in one sentence? And it is only the first page.

    • “Did I already tell you that I’ve read a book by James P. That has 3 adverbs in one sentence? “-

      It was probably the co-author’s fault.

  2. hahah “Maybe backsides twitched pertly back then. I’m not sure what backsides do nowadays because I don’t usually write about backsides.” had a great laugh on this one. Ironically, his memoir does state adverbs are horrible usages.

  3. everyone quotes that adverb sentence but I find no one remembers the one where he says, Always use your first choice word, do not dilute your work by searching about for an inferior word that did not come to your mind first. I think this is a much more powerful quote to banter about, although certainly less humorous.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Bad Sentences in Classic Literature: The Shining by Stephen King — Dysfunctional Literacy | Slattery's Horror Weblog
  2. What Would Stephen King’s Ghost Be Like? | Dysfunctional Literacy

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