The more papers I read this semester, the more I see with clarity the mistake in calling all poor writing "bad." I am learning to distinguish between actual bad writing and obtuse writing. I'm also learning that I don't mind bad writing all that much.
Obtuse writing, however, holds a special place in the sixth circle of Hell.
Bad writing, is when a person, puts commas, wherever he wants without regard, to conventions. It is when a writer gets so excited about an idea that he just want to say it all in one sentence even if that sentence goes on for several lines without punctuation or purpose and then he uses semi-colons incorrectly; to introduce incomplete clauses. Bad writing is when he introduces a quote without a lead in. "A day of bad writing is better than a day of no writing" (Don Roff). I am learning to tolerate, if not appreciate, bad writing.
Obtuse writing is far more excruciating, though.
The obtuse writer is either smarter than he writes or stupider than he looks. Obtuse writing begins when a person ignores all of the lessons about proper structuring of ideas. Oh, he remembers that a thesis must appear as the final sentence in an introduction, but he decides it fits better elsewhere. He has been told a million times how to introduce a paragraph with an arguable claim, but he'd rather state an obvious fact. After all, it is fact. No analysis needed. In conclusion, this is why obtuse writing drives me insane. He also lacks discernible logic in his paragraphs. Why, for instance, would something like "in conclusion" be written halfway through a paragraph? It doesn't really matter to the obtuse writer. The obtuse writer knows the paper is supposed to be four pages at minimum, so he hands in 3 3/4… while skipping lines in between paragraphs. The goal of the obtuse writer is to complete the assignment. Beyond that objective, all other potential benefits of writing are extraneous.
But most of all, the obtuse writer drives composition instructors to find excuses to avoid grading and, instead, to write a ridiculous blog about the differences between bad writers and obtuse writers.
Thank the heavens for bad writers.
Decent writers, good writers, and great writers aren't so bad either.
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