World's worst advice for writers

Posted by David Middlecamp on August 13, 2013 

Some photographers have great handwriting; others are like me.


A friend was lamenting the other day that cursive penmanship is no longer a centerpiece of education. I did not have such fond memories of the subject.

I remember the posters spanning the wall over the chalkboard with strange-looking loops and curls with little arrows and numbers.

I remember spending week after week hunched over specially lined paper.

To be honest, I didn’t retain much of the subject. The thought going through my head was: "I just learned how to write in block letters — now I have to learn all over again?"

My first "D" grade on a report card was for messy handwriting.

Over the years my handwriting has become almost illegible, and this is with the advantage of ballpoint and felt-tip pens. The modern age took a step backwards in penmanship excellence with electronic tethered pens and electronic screens.

I can't imagine having to dip nib to inkwell.

The keyboard is my preferred writing tool. And not those little thumby screens — give me a full-size keyboard with clackety, three-dimensional keys.

This bit of sarcasm was published in The Tribune on Dec. 29, 1877, but if you have ever sent or received a handwritten letter or postcard, you may understand.

Reporters, Read!

An illustrious cotemporary [sic] gives some wholesome advice to newspaper correspondents.

He wants everybody to write with pencil.

And he continues in this strain: If you are compelled to use ink, never use that vulgarity known as the blotting-pad. If you drop a blot of ink on the paper, lick it off.

The intelligent compositor loves nothing so dearly as to read through the smear this will make across twenty or thirty words.

We have seen him hang over such a piece of copy, half an hour, swearing like a pirate all the time, he felt that good.

Don’t punctuate. We prefer to punctuate all copy sent to us.

And don’t use capitals. Then we can punctuate and capitalize to suit ourself, and your article, when you see it in print, will astonish, even if it does not please you.

Don’t try to write too plainly. It is a sign of plebeian origin and public school-breeding.

Poor writing is an indication of genius. It is about the only indication of genius that a great many men possess.

Scrawl your articles with your eyes shut, and make every word as illegible as you can. We get the same price for it from the ragman as though it were covered with copper-plate sentences.

If you have no paper take a postal card and write the history of your town, and run one line into the other, that will make the compositor feel good also.

Avoid all painstaking with proper names. We know the full name of every man, woman and child in the United States, and the merest hit at the name is sufficient.

For instance, if you write a character something like a drunken figure “S” and then draw a wavy line, and then the letter “M” and then another waving line, we will know at once that you mean Samuel Morrison, even though you may think you mean Lemnel Messenger.

It is a great mistake that proper names should be written plainly.

Always write on both sides of the paper, and when you have filled both sides of every page, trail a line up and down every margin, and back to the top of the first page, closing your article by writing the signature just above the date.

How we do love to get hold of articles written in this style! and how we like to get hold of the man who sends them!

Just for ten minutes—alone—in the woods, with a cannon in our hip pocket.

Revenge is sweet. Yum!

Lay your paper on the ground when you write; the rougher the ground the better.

When your article is completed crunch your paper in your pocket, and carry it three or four days before sending it in.

This rubs off the superfluous pencil-marks, and makes it lighter to handle.

If you can think of it, lose one page out of the middle of your article.

We can easily supply what is missing and we love to do it. We have nothing else to do.

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