Sunday, December 13, 2009

Poor, fun writingly things.

I'm sure by now we've all come upon this site. It's a fun blog to scan through, even if the earlier posts are better than the recent ones. Anyway, the site has posts demonstrating, in a ludicrous and over-the-top manner, ways to write poorly, focusing each time on someone's (indeed many people's) writing pet peeves: spell check reliance, mixed metaphors, excessive dialogue tags, et cetera.

I have an as yet untested idea for how to use it as a template for a writing prompt. Simply, take one of these posts (some surely will work better than others) and let students have a go at replicating the bad writing. Students, if this lesson works, will first be able to then identify what exactly the problem is, and then, by doing it in an over the top style, identify why they are problems. I imagine this would be a fun activity. A natural follow-up could be fixing/revising to eliminate the issue.

The closest thing I have done to trying this involved revising cliches with my Eng15 class. It didn't go over perfectly, and I was put in a tough spot of trying to encourage creativity and participation while also explaining why many of the sudents' offerings were not much better. Having good examples of revision ahead of time would be good. For example, "his heart fluttered in his chest" could be "his heart smacked his ribs like a bumblebee at a window." (I think that was Chabon).

So there are potential problems with this idea: the age of the group, level of comfort between the participants and the teacher, participants being so ingrained with bad habits from trash books that they like writing badly more than correcting it. There's also an issue, perhaps, in so resolutely and concretely designating something as "wrong." I'm not saying it would be an easy lesson, but for the right group, I'd imagine it would be useful. At the very least, the writingbadlywell blog outlines some of the more irritating writing errors, things for which you can then write your own lesson.

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