How To Write Badly

The internet is full of guides on good writing – ironically, a sizeable portion of them poorly written, so let’s help the educational effect by approaching the issue from the opposite side.

I shall provide a guide on writing badly, and you can then just do the exact opposite and you’ll be fine.

Observant readers might notice this is essentially a complementary negative rephrasing of Orwell’s rules of good writing. Good for you.

So without further ado, which would turn this good text into an ungood text:

1) Write at length. Nobody will buy a one-page book – which is a problem, because most nonfiction (air quotes) books especially from economics and the more popular humanities would fit on a page comfortably. Too many books are a single interesting observation smudged over 400 pages, without which however, Nicholas Taleb and Malcom Gladwell would be out of jobs. Brevity is the enemy of sales and royalties, but the friend of the reader – do you see the problem there?

2) Write pompously. Overcomplicated language is intended to mask deficient, stupid, trivial or downright manipulative fundamental content. The leader in the field of compensation for bad content by polished form is of course political language, followed closely by academic prose (specifically in humanities), lawyerese, economics-ese and “expertese” in general. Behold, a true expert can express himself succinctly and clearly so that Joe the Plumber gets it, without resorting to extended autofellation.

3) Write for your ego, not the reader. The good judgment that I would like to believe resides still in the heart of most, is often defeated by a narcissistic need to sound clever (mainly to oneself), and the hope that an overcomplicated language will evoke an air of expertise and be more persuasive. Such efforts are however thwarted by the fact that only a text somebody else than the author actually enjoys reading can ever aspire to persuasiveness.

4) Write wordily. This is different from point 1, because it is in essence an attempted argument ad nauseam, or “Babbling a hole through people’s heads” as we colorfully say in Czech. Although the identical information can be transmitted in a single, bare sentence, a multi-page elaboration is supposed to help retention of the relevant ideas (or more often their absence).

Orwell was right. People suck at writing.
So, let’s not.