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How To Write An Essay Part 8 - Examples of Good and Bad Writing

Still, prolixity is often a feature of bad writing, as demonstrated by our next winner, a passage submitted by Mindy Michels, a graduate anthropology student at the American University in Washington, D.C. It’s written by Stephen Tyler, and appears in , edited (it says) by James Clifford and George E. Marcus (University of California Press, 1986). Of what he calls “post-modern ethnography,” Professor Tyler says:

Bad College Essay, Bad College Essays, What Makes A Bad College Essay, Writing Bad College Essays

While the entrant says she enjoys the Bad Writing Contest, she’s fearful her career prospects would suffer were she to be identified as hostile to the turn by English departments toward movies and soap operas. We quite understand: these days the worst writers in universities are English professors who ignore “the canon” in order to apply tepid, vaguely Marxist gobbledygook to popular culture. Young academics who’d like a career had best go along.

If I'm Bad at Writing Essays Can I Survive College? - …

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But perhaps the most annoying of all bad student essays, while not the most reprehensible, is the Bad Essay by the Talented Student. In exam conditions, this will appear in the psychotic handwriting which the young person sees as a badge of his or her genius. It will be peppered with personal anecdotes and/or quotes from texts not on the course, demonstrating that literature, for this student, has broken its academic banks and connected with his/her life – worse still, that the student . These are the essays in which a literary ambition, on the part of the essay-writer, is clearer than their level-headed appraisal of the writers under discussion. There will be weird rhetorical flourishes, puns, jokes and parenthetical remarks. Unfortunately, given the present-day opportunities to stay in education until advanced age, the writers of these essays will go on to do postgraduate work, during which time no one will be able to figure out what they’re so about. This mystery will remain unsolved until the student starts teaching and marking essays him/herself. At this point, the real danger of prolonged education becomes clear: eventually student-teachers are confronted by the fact that not everyone thinks the same way they do. Marking essays disrupts the necessary autism with which angry students construct all readers in their own image as the exemplary reader/writer, and with which they massively inflate the value of their own project. For not only do others hold contrary opinions, they don’t . There’s just two or three weirdly angry people in the class ready to start the process all over again. In fact what you really learn is that you can’t really teach anyone at all: some teach themselves, the rest just ignore you.

Jack Kolb of UCLA found this sentence in Paul Fry’s (Stanford University Press, 1995). Together with the previous winners, it proves that 1995 was to bad prose what 1685 was to good music. Fry writes,

Bad College Essays: 10 Mistakes You Must Avoid

The Philosophy and Literature Bad Writing Contest ran from 1995 to 1998. For an essay giving background on the contest, click here.

The Bad Writing Contest attempts to locate the ugliest, most stylistically awful passage found in a scholarly book or article published in the last few years. Ordinary journalism, fiction, etc. are not eligible, nor are parodies: entries must be non-ironic, from actual serious academic journals or books. In a field where unintended self-parody is so widespread, deliberate send-ups are hardly necessary.

This is not to say that much of the writing we would consider “bad” is necessarily incompetent. Graduate students and young scholars please note: many of the writers represented have worked years to attain their styles and they have been rewarded with publication in books and journal articles. In fact, if they weren’t published, we wouldn’t have them for our contest. That these passages constitute bad writing is merely our opinion; it is arguable that anyone wanting to pursue an academic career should assiduously imitate such styles as are represented here. These are your role models.

Essay on Bad Writing | Prelude
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Learning to write often works best by example

The personal statement is extremely important in gaining admittance to graduate and professional schools. Although it can be frustrating to write an original and well-devised statement, through time and drafts it will be written. The ones that are good take time. The ones that are bad can sabotage your chances for success. It is also important that you show your drafts to a Writing Center tutor, your academic advisor, Career Planning advisor, and friends; they will help you write an essay that reveals the right balance of personal and academic characteristics and specifics.

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