What Makes us Bad Writers?

It seems that nowadays, everyone is talking about how to be a good writer. Well, they have good reason for doing such things. I think about it all the time, actually. What can I do to make that sentence better? How can I improve my writing? How can I improve my characters?

However, I feel that some of this can be slightly opinion based. I think that in order to find out what we need to better ourselves as writers, we need to figure out what exactly makes us bad writers. Well, here is my opinion when it comes to what I think is good, and/or bad writing.

#1: Punctuation – Obviously, punctuation is one of the basic, fundamental first steps to being a good writer. If you can’t use a comma or semi-colon correctly, you certainly won’t be viewed as a good writer to the public eye. Especially to my public eyes. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s run-on sentences, and the overuse of the word “and” in a sentence. It’s unnecessary.

#2: Character Development – This is probably what makes or breaks a novel. Character development helps the reader to see growth and change, and whether or not it is relates to the reader, well, depends on the reader. But, readers love to see a character overcome their own flaws and demons to make themselves better, and to better the lives of their friends, and/or family.

#3: Sentence Structure – For me, sentence structure falls a little low on my chart of what I think makes writing good. Certainly, a writer needs to be able to weave the language and words in a way that is appealing to the reader. However, in some cases, as long as the overall message in is conveyed, I don’t see any harm in a writer not having perfect structure.

#4: Story Telling – Storytelling goes, essentially, hand in hand with character development. Readers want a compelling story that takes them on a journey they wouldn’t otherwise be able to go on. Probably the biggest example of story telling I can think of would be The Lord of the Rings. Epic adventure, epic heroes, and good versus evil. Taking an entire chapter just to describe a mountain, I would certainly classify that as epic. However, I did read an article about Tolkien, where he was denied a writing award (the name of it fails me at the moment), because of poor prose. So, I suppose that’s where sentence structure comes in. Just because you can tell a great story, doesn’t make you a good writer.

What do you identify to be bad writing? Do you think finding out what makes bad writing makes you a stronger writer? Or do you only look for examples of good writing?


8 thoughts on “What Makes us Bad Writers?

  1. Pat, beribboned endings that spell out with no creativity the exact ending for every character is bad writing to me. I want to read to use my imagination. It is like providing poor illustrations with your text, it completely kills the reader involvement. I also despise inappropriate context. Talk to your audience, not above or under them.

  2. Excess, use, of, commas! See, what I, did there? 😉
    Also, writers that repeat a word in one sentence after another is incredibly irritating. For instance: he looked down at the table intently forming the connections in his head. It all suddenly made sense, he tilted his head towards the man opposite him and stared intently into his eyes. The man stared intently back. Arrgggh, it really puts me in a bad mood if I come across that in a book!

    • Agreed! I have a terrible habit of using the same word a lot. Sometimes, if I feel like I’m using the same word too much, I search for it in Word and see just how many times I’ve used it. I should probably start keeping a record book of it, just to see how much I repeat some words!

  3. My pet writing peeve is when the writer can’t seem to translate the way he or she really speaks into language on the page. So it comes out sounding unnatural, or every second sentence is a cliche. Or they write, “Nora, how are you feeling,” Bob questioned. Faulty understanding of the English language? Or just a translation error in the brain? Don’t know.

  4. this is all culturally inflected. run on sentences aren’t something that the majority of audiences care about, it’s a pet peeve of the english writing community. the idea of standardized english is a new one, almost as new as the idea of character development as the end all be all of good story construction. all of this is a trap that leaves the student restrained to the forms and protocols of the 19th and 20th centuries, like an obsession about proper capitalization.

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