December 07, 2004

Bad writing

Came across three articles in one day about the effects of bad writing, and at MemeFirst, two=trend and three=meme! In increasing order of importance,

  • A man has had his 10-year prison sentence overturned by a federal appeals court, on the grounds that the law in question made no sense;
  • Businesses are spending $3.1 billion a year teaching their employees to write coherent emails;
  • And, five years after the event, Stanford University Press has published a book by a bunch of theorists complaining about Dennis Dutton's attack on academic gobbledegook.

After the jump, the key bad sentences in each case.

“[a]ny individual who violates . . . this section, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not less than 10 years nor more than 20 years, and both . . . .”

"i am writing a essay on writing i work for this company and my boss want me to help improve the workers writing skills can yall help me with some information thank you"

"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."

Posted by Felix at 09:50 PM GMT

Just back from Elfriede Jelinek's Nobel lecture -- prerecorded on video as she wasn't up for the travel to Stockholm from Austria. Elfriede darling, here is my advice: Don't let your metaphors dictate your thoughts. It should be the other way around. Otherwise, you get stuff like this:

"It has noticed me now and immediately snaps at me, this language. It dares to adopt this tone of command to me, it raises its hand against me, it doesn�t like me. It would gladly like the nice people on the way, alongside whom it runs, like the dog it is, feigning obedience. In reality it not only disobeys me, but everyone else, too. It is for no-one but itself. It cries out through the night, because no-one has remembered to put up lights beside this way, which are supplied by nothing but the sun and no longer need any current at all from the socket, or to find the path a proper path name. But it has so many names, that it would be impossible to keep up with all the naming, if one tried. I shout across, in my loneliness, stamping across these graves of the departed, because since I am already running alongside, I cannot pay attention as well to what I�m treading on, whom I�m treading down, I would only somehow like to get to the place where my language already is, and where it smirks mockingly across at me. Because it knows, that, if I ever tried to live, it would soon trip me up, then rub salt in my wounds. Good. So I will scatter salt on the way of the others, I throw it down, so that their ice melts, coarse salt, so that their language loses its firm ground. And yet it has long been groundless. What bottomless cheek on its part!"

Not sure if the bottomless cheek imagery was intentional or not.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on December 7, 2004 10:19 PM

stefan, i doubt it was intentional. she's a rather humourless creature.

Posted by: Marc on December 7, 2004 10:24 PM

Television has turned us into morons. Few people read, or at least read regularly. And as much as I love e-mail, its advent has also spelled the end of the personal letter, which might have been the one written medium that everyone would use at least occasionally. The advent of SMS has accelerated the trend and made language even more abrupt.

I can tell I'm out of touch; I still get annoyed with the use of "thru". Most people have degenerated way beyond this. "Thru" has four letters, it's almost in the difficult category.

Posted by: Jame on December 8, 2004 01:27 AM

You're a little late on this trend/meme. See this article from last March about an attorney who had his fees reduced by the court because his writing was so poor:

Posted by: Jesse on December 8, 2004 07:42 AM

"If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country, I'd want to ask the secretary of defense the same question, and that is, 'Are we getting the best we can get us?'"

And can you believe this man runs the U.S.A.? It does seem the inadequate continue to lead. Conan the Gramarian out.

Posted by: Sanford on December 9, 2004 05:54 PM