A picture of a hand writing on a piece of paper.

Writing Bloopers

Early in graduate school, I attended a writing workshop that began with a Writing Bloopers activity: in small groups, outline a really bad paper on a topic with which we’re all familiar. Unsurprisingly, the activity was fun. But the activity was also instructive. I learned how some of my writing habits can annoy my readers. And more importantly, I realized just how easy it is to write badly.

1.  Modified Writing Bloopers Activity

I sometimes wonder if the Writing Bloopers activity would work with high school or college students. When I pitch the idea to other teachers, they are sometimes skeptical. The skeptics worry that the students do not sufficiently understand what makes writing good or bad. After all, students sometimes turn in papers that contain comically bad writing.

I take the skeptic’s point. However, I wonder if the activity could be modified to work for less experienced writers. For example, perhaps I could present examples of bad writing and let students explain how they are bad. I find that this works well for teaching students about arguments. So it perhaps it would work for teaching students about writing as well. If you’ve done a Writing Bloopers activity, then feel free to share your experience in the comments.

2.  A List of Writing Bloopers

Here’s a (growing) list of writing bloopers that could be used for the activity. Feel free to add writing bloopers in the comments.

Introduction Bloopers

“From the beginning of time, philosophers have argued about abortion.”

“Since the beginning of time, there has been American history.”

“Since the dawn of time, man has wondered whether computers can think.”

“Since the dawn of time the sun has risen in the East.  (Well, that first dawn?  The sun may have risen all over at once, but after that things settled down.)”

“Throughout history, man has wrestled with the concepts of cyclic versus linear time.”

“Since the invention of the Nintendo game controller in the 1980’s, scientists have been increasingly worried that computers will take over the world…”

“Throughout the ages, women have been the cause of trouble for men. I, personally, have seen this.”

Description Bloopers

“El Nino is Spanish. Like all things Spanish, it is dangerous.”

“Ecosystems have many factors driving them, both biotic and antibiotic.”

“The states that have a high demand for surgical techs are Florida, Tampa Bay, Texas, and Chicago.”

“…the piece of crap hammy down car from your brother.”

“The statistics are difficult to copulate.”

“I balled my eyes out.”

“She razed her head.”

Metaphor Bloopers

“Life is a fist from God.”

“The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.”

“Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.”

“Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.”

“He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.”

“She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.”

Philosophy Bloopers

“According to Kant, consequences don’t mean sh@#.”

“In my opinion, Socrates is absolutely right to dismiss the opinions of the majority. The majority of people are uneducated. We should only trust the opinions of the wise man. Wikipedia defines ‘wisdom’ as…”

“Despite what Plato taught, people are not in fact generally born in caves.”

“Utilitarianism is the view that the right action is the one that produces the most pressure.”

“In Hume’s great novel, ‘A Treatise of…'”

“Descartes believed that God existed. Let me exfoliate on the matter.”

“Everybody’s always rambling on about Extrastentialism, but I’m pretty sure that I’m the only one in this class who really gets it.”

“The pre-Socratics were pretty primitive and unsystematic thinkers. This is shown by the fact that they wrote in fragments.”

“No one can deny that Christians invented all science and mathematics.”

In a paper against same-sex marriage, “To a Christian, sex is between two couples.”

“In this paper, I will argue that the mind is identical to the body, but not the other way around.”

“Freud helps us understand the Mondayed events in our lives in new ways.”

History Bloopers

“The Native Americans and the colonists didn’t judge each other. They got together and formed the American dream, which is represented by Thanksgiving.”

“It is obvious that the Holocaust was a lie created by US corporations owned by Jews…”

“The eighteenth century was a time of Shakespeare and everybody needing love.”

General Bloopers

“I don’t work well in groups because I am a perfectionist. I would rather do all the work myself and ensure I get an A. If 75% of my grade is determined by me then that is 15% that I have no control over.”

“When reading, you have to seperate the wheat from the crap.”

Conclusion Bloopers

“It is clear through examination of this paper that I have verified the eminent truths.”

“To conclude, I am not nearly as smart as I think I am, but neither was John Updike or the Whigs.”

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Nick Byrd

Nick is a cognitive scientist at Florida State University studying reasoning, wellbeing, and willpower. Check out his blog at byrdnick.com/blog