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Wretched Writing: A Compendium of Crimes Against the English Language

3.18  ·  Rating details ·  160 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Wretched writing is the lowest of the low; it is a felonious assault on the English language. Exuberantly excessive, it is a sin committed often by amateurs and all-too-frequently by gifted writers having an off day. In short, it’s very bad writing. Truly bad. Appallingly bad.

It’s also very funny.

A celebration of the worst writing imaginable, Wretch
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by TarcherPerigee (first published June 4th 2013)
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Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Amusing except for the selections from academic writing--those are just depressing because they're quite representative of the state of academics today.
Ricardo Signes
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: humanities
It was okay. There were a few bits that were very funny, but they were too few and far between. Many samples were bad but not so bad that I wanted to read them. (Wait, what?) Some, I thought, were actually well-written and interesting prose that were being called bad because they were unusual. Far too many samples were entirely reasonable English when written that had only later become amusing because of changes in English usage. These were often pointed out as being just such cases, but that di ...more
Elaine Meszaros
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing

The Petras siblings have done it again. Wretched Writing is a neatly categorized compendium of the most cringe and laugh-inducing writing. The vulgarians aren't just beating down the gates. They're inside, comfortably ensconced and pounding out one atrocity after another. No wretched writer escapes the sharp lampoon:

Commas, problematic: "Highlights of the tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector."
Article about a documentary by Peter Us
Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Hilarious. I truly appreciated the fact that Twilight was included so often.
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: humor
The Petras siblings collected many hilarious examples of terrible writing, but their own commentary is stupid. I know that sounds harsh, but unfortunately it is true. They're no great shakes as writers themselves, so they shouldn't be as smug as they are. But I'm still very grateful to them for collecting these examples of words so misused that they're almost fascinating. It must have been painful.
Graeme Roberts
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
I can't imagine why people want to write books like this, destined as they for the toilet or the vacation house. Some of the examples of bad writing are very funny, but most are pedestrian. Perhaps the authors got sick of collecting beer coasters or matchboxes?
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I adore everything these two authors put together - the "wretched writing" of which they speak is amusing enough in itself (as well as vaguely disconcerting), but their little pieces about them just add another level of amusement. I laughed out loud a LOT reading this book...even though there are some TRULY wretched pieces of writing in here. But then, that's the point! ;-)
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
A book in the same vein as How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide, but far inferior.

The biggest problem is that it comes across as mean spirited and condescending. Whereas How Not to Write a Novel provides a humorous look at the mistakes of many amateur writers, this one seems to exist just so the authors can insult books they don't like. This isn't to say that the books mentioned in here aren't poorly written; it's just that Wretched Writing i
James Crabtree
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Not as well done as it could have been, given the material Ms. Petras collected. This is, without a doubt, a good collection of snippets of bad writing of every kind, but her humorous treatment falls flat in most places.
Syd Dickson
There were a few moments where I laughed out loud, but not as many as I would've hoped. Alright, but not as funny as it could have been.
Todd Stockslager
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: other
Review title: Writing it wrong

As an IT professional whose primary tool is words, I had this along with Between you and me: Confessions of a comma queen on my reading wish list, and when I was able to pick both up at Powell's Books in Portland on my most recent trip, I decided to read and review these as a pair as they both explore the value of words and punctuation as tools for communicating.

Wretched writing does so from the bottom, looking at examples of ways the language has been mangl
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
As part of a reading challenge, I have to read a book on writing or reading. I decided to go with writing and why not go with bad writing? I was surprised by how much was I entertained by the "wretched writing" and the authors' humor. You might be too.
John Hanson
Not wretchedly written but not a page tuurner. A perfect book for a bathroom.
meh. it was all right. just what the subtitle says: a collection of especially bad writing, organized according to witty sub-headings invented by the authors (such as "prose, purple" or "metaphors, mixed"). bonus points for making me legitimately laugh a couple of times, but this was really just an insubstantial read to occupy my evenings after getting ramona to bed. usually by the time 8pm rolls around, i'm pretty close to brain-dead from wrangling a baby all day & i need something fun & ...more
Bob Nichols
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
The book is a more or less predictable collection of botched writing. My favorites:

“She sat huddled in a chair, covering her ears with crossed legs.”

“He lifted her tee-shirt over her head. Her silk panties followed.”

“Highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.”

“Among those interviewed were Haggard’s two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.”

Alternatives t
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Uses examples from published texts to illustrate a delightful history of terrible writing. While many of the examples are arguably drawn from "b-list" literature, even "classic" writers like Austen, Richardson, Lawrence, Hawthorne, Alcott, Dickens and academics like Judith Butler aren't exempt from writing gone bad. For me, this book's primary appeal is it's pedagogical potential; I'm always on the look-out for great examples of style--and the selections in this book range from newspapers to Pul ...more
Justine Olawsky
Sep 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Wretched Writing is an amusing diversion of a book. The brother/sister team does a good job of picking out assaults to the mother tongue from a wide variety of sources. Out of necessity, I suppose, there are an awful lot of sex scenes exposed to the light of day -- a rather disturbing number of which were written by politicians and political pundits. All I can say is, Scooter Libby = Eeeew. I guess, though, that sex scenes more than any others are just so darn difficult to write about in any way that d ...more
Meghan Blanchette
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing
I wanted this to be funnier than it was. Instead, I found myself doing a lot of skimming--a boring passage isn't any less boring to read because you've transported it to another book. There were some entertaining bits, but not enough commentary or direction to make the book interesting. It was more "here is a bad piece of writing, here is another." I also thought it was silly to include pieces of writing from the past that were fine at their time, but "wretched" now because of word changes. Most ...more
James Maxey
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
When I picked up the book, I expected it to be filled with funny examples of bad writing, but also, given the amount of commentary surrounding the examples, to be filled with useful advice for good writing. Instead, I found maybe 70% of the examples to be mediocre rather than wretched, more dull than funny. The commentary surrounding the examples was snarky and prone to stating the obvious, as if the reader might not have understood that breasts in no way resemble snakes, for example. Really, I ...more
Rex Libris
Sep 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
The only thing wretched about this book is that it was written. The authors think they are clever and witty and have written a funny book. They have not.

While there are some examples of truly horrible writing that rises to the level of comical, much is not. Passages are removed from context or are perfectly fitting with their genre, and this not as wretched as the authors would have us believe.

I would hazard political viewpoint also comes into play in some of their editorial decisio
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not as funny as I expected. Too much emphasis on sexual themes. I've read other books on a similar theme that are much better, such as Richard Lederer's Anguished English and others by him. Lederer is laugh-out-loud funny.
I'm glad I got this from the library, and I recommend you do the same if you want to read it. Some of it is okay.
There's an index so you can check if an author you like is in here.
I do like that the authors credit the author of the quote and give the book or d
Casey Harris
Jul 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is not an instant classic, but it is a fun little diversion if you enjoy sarcasm and truly bad examples of writing from a variety of genres and time periods. Some of the examples are quite explicit, so be warned, with categories like "overuse of profanity" and over-the top descriptions of sex.

But, if that doesn't bother you and you've got a good sense of humor, you might enjoy this. I just hope you're not too big a Stephenie Meyer or Dan Brown fan, though...they take some major abuse in th
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Summer Holgate
Dec 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: No one - don't read it!
Okay, so far I've learned the very biased opinions of unknown people about what they think shouldn't be written in books. I understand some ideas, but for the most part, really?

Some hilarity, but I guess I just felt bad for the writer who spent all their time working up a beautifully crafted concoction of ideas, obviously without intention of being an example in this book.

stars for helpful
2 stars for structure
2 stars for bleh
2 stars for "...oookkaayy..."
Feb 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
I don't know exactly what I expected from this book but I thought it would be funnier. I found the examples mostly sad or bizarre. Some were a little funny but not super enjoyable. I sometimes felt like they were picking on people. If they were trying to be funny I didn't get the joke. If they were trying to point out that even published authors can be terrible writers? Well I already knew that.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Extremely funny collection of examples of very bad writing, organized into categories ( "character intros, wretchedly bad" etc.) and spanning several centuries of terrible prose (plus a few poems). Much funnier than the collections of writing that's created to be intentionally bad (as for the annual Bulwer-Lytton bad writing contest) - this is all real published literary work that happens to be hilariously awful.
Oct 18, 2013 rated it liked it
I loved the title, so grabbed this book on a whim. Parts of it are hilarious. Be aware, though, that it is very risque -- as a lot of wretched writing has to do with various sexual matters. Perfect for a change of pace from serious, literary tomes. (And I get a Wretched Writing citation for using "tomes" instead of "books.") Enjoy!
David James
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Owing to mortal fear of the authors taking liberties with any review I might leave here, I'll simply say this book is hysterical.

Also, they provide the good parts from novels credited to politicians and pundits so you won't have to read them yourselves. Stay clear of Scooter Libby and David Brooks. You've been warned.
Duncan Smith
Mar 28, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is a bit like looking at a 'worst dressed' list. As a writer, you read it in an attempt to avoid the mistakes of those who've gone before you.

Quite amusing in parts. The 'highlights' are probably the massively pretentious writing on art, and of course academic writing, which is just too easy easy to laugh at.
Dec 20, 2013 rated it liked it
3.75 stars (I just can't give it the extra .25 star to make it a 4). This book was pretty funny, though I couldn't help thinking that some of the things were taken out of context in order to seem wretched. There were a few examples I skimmed over because I was warned that they didn't make much sense anyway, but on the whole this held my interest.
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