When Good Writing Goes Bad

Day’s Verse:
Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ’s death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation.
Hebrews 9:27-28

Cliches. We all use ’em, and they give us a useful shorthand way of referring to an idea. But they’re cliches for a reason, as I demonstrate in this sentence:

Now, words are just hot air until we put the pedal to the metal.

I typed this down in the midst of an article for the Bicycle Alliance newsletter without really engaging my brain. Then I reread it and had to laugh aloud — it was so very, very bad! Fortunately, I rewrote that sentence to say what I wanted without the horrific mixed metaphor. Editing worked.

When editing fails, you get writing like Clive Cussler’s, which has become notorious in my family as the pinnacle of mixed-metaphor, cliche-clashing writing. Some of my favorite Cusslerisms include:

  • Trapped like a duck in a closet.
  • The dark side of the coin.
  • The weapon was extremely lethal (also: Deadly killer weapons)
  • “We’re taking on water like a douche bag”
  • They proceded to overhaul the other vehicle (he meant to say they caught up to the other vehicle)
  • Pissing off the wrong side of the fence
  • He regarded her like a classic car he had never seen before

All these and more make reading Clive Cussler’s books just that much more entertaining. Alas, these mixed metaphors and Frankenstein’s monsters of cliches don’t remain solely in the purview of churn ’em out fiction novelists. No, a while ago I encountered another unfortunate Cussler-like writing faux pas in the newspaper: “‘Now we know the true scale of the monster we are fighting in the Gulf,’ said Jeremy Symons, vice president of the National Wildlife Federation. ‘BP has unleashed an unstoppable force of appalling proportions.'” (citation). Ouch. Now that’s a pretty bad unstoppable force.

Share your favorite examples of bad writing!

A Weekend in the Life

Day’s Verse:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
Daniel 3:16-18

I spent almost this entire weekend on the run, and I barely had time to think let alone blog — but all sorts of exciting things happened.

Friday night Ian and I went to Kidd Valley for dinner, which made up for the fact that I had to stay at work until 7:00 for a meeting. It didn’t rain, the air felt temperate, and I enjoy riding in the dark (with sufficient lighting), but even so, I’d rather get home earlier.

Saturday morning I awoke feeling inspired, and by 9:30 we had finished sorting, alphabetizing, and shelving all our books. The rest of the weekend I kept looking at it and reorganizing it here and there, but with books it feels so deliciously homey in there. All we need is a footstool and a beanbag chair and you couldn’t get me out of there with a carrot or a stick. In the afternoon, my friend Rachel and I met up and we went on an amazing Picture Framing Bonanza. Rachel has excellent artistic taste and is very crafty, which compliments my almost complete lack of artistic talent and taste nicely.

By Sunday evening we had 10 pictures — which have languished for between one and seven years unframed — framed and seven of them up on the wall. One of them turned out particularly nicely, a hydrangea Jan Garner drew for me and Ian in our first year of marriage. Rachel found a bunch of different blue paper of varying colors and textures, cut them into little hydrangea petal shapes, and pasted them on a piece of paper. The hydrangea petals served as background/matting for the picture itself, which we placed on top.

I’m also looking for a good way to hang a quilt that Deborah made for us. I like using it, but it’s so pretty, I think it’ll look lovely on the wall too.

And this weekend we cooked: Mom and I made an apple pie-like food (which I sent to church for the volunteers); and I made bean soup, cornbread, and more apple dessert stuff. Some no-knead bread is rising as I type this.

Finally, I vaccumed and even went around the edges with the edge tool, which for me is incredibly intense cleaning. While I did that, Ian took advantage of the non-rainy Sunday afternoon to rake up the entire tree’s-worth of leaves carpeting our backyard. He had to wade through the backyard bog to do it, and I had to admire his intrepid journeying. Also it reminded me that French drains are in our near future, no matter how much we try to pretend they aren’t. Mucky trenches, here we come.

Speaking of mucky, this morning I rode in through steady rain and had to both wring out and then wrap in a towel and squish dry my pants and socks. I’ve already resigned myself to damp feet on the way home.

PS – Here are the pictures, with the hydrangea one in the middle:
Wedding Pictures Framed

Hydrangea Framed
(Yes, they are straight. My lens has a pretty noticeable fisheye distortion when zoomed all the way out.)


Day’s Verse:
Everything is clean to the clean-minded; nothing is clean to dirty-minded unbelievers. They leave their dirty fingerprints on every thought and act.
Titus 1:15

Which of the following outfits suits (no pun intended) Ian better?

Ian: Suit

Ian: Kilt

We were having a discussion about this, and I made one assertion — which I’ll keep to myself for now — and then Ian pointed out that we really needed somebody who wasn’t already biased to provide input. We’re trying to get at which quasi-formal outfit one Ian looks more natural or at home wearing.

Of course, I’d say this is picture taken back in 2005 really captures Ian’s best look.

Ian Turban