Author Bob Hostetler

How to Write Poorly

To paraphrase a pretty good writer of several centuries ago, “Some are born writers, some learn to be writers, and others have writing thrust upon them.”

Whichever category you fit into, it takes practice and perseverance to write well. But it takes only a little effort to write poorly. Here are seven tips to help you write poorly:

  1. Write for everyone.

Don’t write for a specific demographic or a target audience. Don’t write with a specific reader in mind. Just write for anyone and everyone. Keep it general, broad, and one-size-fits-all.

  1. Don’t read your writing aloud.

Sure, every writing teacher I know sings the praises of reading one’s work aloud, as doing so exposes a plethora of mistakes and problems. But few writers actually do it. Be the few, the proud, the poor.

  1. Don’t invite critique.

Every writer has weaknesses; and if you find a person or a group of people who can give you capable, honest, and regular critique, they might help you discover and eliminate your weaknesses. But you probably don’t want that. It can be painful. So skip it.

  1. Don’t spell-check and proofread.

You know you didn’t make any mistakes. You know your article or chapter is perfect, as is. So just print out your masterpiece, and immediately submit it to a publisher. Why should the world have to wait any longer to benefit from your genius?

  1. Use passive verbs.

Sure, the second sentence below is much stronger than the first:

The house was buried in the snow. (Passive)

The snow buried the house. (Active)

But you can’t (and probably shouldn’t) make every verb active or vibrant, so use “is” and “was” a lot. That is fine.

  1. Use lots of adjectives and adverbs.

We all know that Strunk and White wrote in The Elements of Style, “In general, it is nouns and verbs, not their assistants, that give to good writing its toughness and color.” But what do they know? Why make your nouns and verbs do all the heavy lifting? Prop them up with redundant (“smiling happily”), superfluous (“the furry cat”), and flowery (“beautifully striking flouncy azure dress”) words.  This is good, top-notch, poor writing.

  1. Use plenty of clichés, platitudes, qualifiers, jargon, and overdone words.

Like “white as snow” (cliché). And “God works all things for the good” (yes, I know it’s in the Bible; but we’ve not only abbreviated it but have turned it into a platitude). Like rather, very, pretty, really, and little (qualifiers). Or anointed and fellowshipping (jargon). And impacted, awesome, and epic (overdone words). Sprinkle your writing with these, and you’re sure to write pretty poorly, and the results could be epic.


See how easy it is? Not that anyone can do it; it takes practice and perseverance. But I believe in you. I really, really do.

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