Bad writing isn’t always obvious

Bad writing doesn’t have to shout ‘Look how bad I am!’ It can be sneakier than that. Writing can dress itself up in a few cliches and look quite pleased with itself, while actually being incredibly lazy, limp and useless.

We’ve looked at a fair few dismal, dreadful, appalling examples in our time on Wordbrain, and we will continue to do for at least two good reasons. 1. It’s fun to see how dumb organisations can be. 2. It’s continually mind boggling that they haven’t learn’t better. You know the kind of thing:

There is an amplified need to respond to shortened innovation cycles as well as supply chain agility to provide growth in competitive market conditions.

Yep, that’s a real example. What’s more, the person who wrote it (would it be wrong to suggest it was probably a man?) thought they’d done a damn good job. I mean, they didn’t write something as dull and ordinary as ‘we need to respond…’ No, they wrote ‘There is an amplified need…’ An amplified need is big and important. ‘Rapid change’ would be far too obvious. They went for ‘shortened innovation cycles’ because that proves just how brainy they really are.

Truck loads of this sort of steaming fertiliser gets dumped on helpless readers every day. But so does this kind of thing:

Take some time away from the stress of everyday life with a relaxing break at Centre Parcs. Enjoy a range of stimulating programmes and activities aimed at young children to ensure a fun filled time for them, and a well earned break for you.

Some well-meaning marketing manager, perhaps, thought they would knock up a bit of promotional content. They dropped in some of the right kinds of phrases, and hey presto – job done.

It’s a fine example of non-obvious bad writing. It dresses in the right clothes, has the right haircut. But when you look closer, it’s one cliche after another.

‘The stress of everyday life’

‘A relaxing break’

‘Fun filled time’

‘Well earned break’

This is lazy writing. Writing on automatic. And what’s the subtext, the subconscious message it conveys?

‘Center Parcs is OK. There’s nothing distinctive about it. Nothing original or interesting. We can’t get excited about it so you shouldn’t either.’

It’s actually slightly worse than that. Look at that icky little phrase about kids: ‘A range of stimulating programmes and activities aimed at young children’. Stimulating? You’re going to stimulate my children? That’s either perverted or it’s dull as hell.

So watch out. Watch out for limp writing that sends a terrible message. Watch out for cliches that roll off the keyboard and then sit there asleep on the page, damaging your brand.