The subtitle of this book is:
200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide
Although much of the book is concerned with writing novels -- perhaps unsurprising given the title -- there is plenty of meat for the non-fiction author to chew on as well. In particular, the chapters on Words and phrases, Sentences and paragraphs, and the section on pitching (How not to sell a novel) are all worth studying.
For the fiction writer, this book is a definite must-read. The authors have clearly had a great deal of experience, and it shows. Bad writing comes in many forms, such as when the writer shows off how much research they've done as background. In my view, which I've had for many years, your knowledge of a subject ought to be obvious from the way you write, and even from what is not said: you don't have to lay it on with a trowel. Conversely, deciding not to bother with carrying out any research can lead to all sorts of howlers that would cause readers to throw the book across the room, Dorothy Parker-style.
This could all be very depressing, but the authors have a great sense of humour. Take, for example, their litmus test of whether you know the meaning of a word. Ask yourself: do I know the meaning of this word? If the answer is "No", then you do not know it.
Definitely one to read, keep and refer to, the only downside being the odd use of the f-word.
Here's the (Amazon affiliate link): How not to sell a novel
Should there be courses on badly-written books and articles?
People should say what they mean. One way of doing so would be to use the correct word. Another way would be to use objective facts rather than subjective value judgements.
Gratuitous swearing usually adds nothing to a piece of writing or a talk. It’s unpleasant to listen to, and probably has unfortunate consequences for the offender.
So you think you've read some atrocious writing in your life? Well, you ain't seen nothing yet.
If your initial pitch to an editor is not well-researched or well-written, you won't even make it to square one with that publication or publisher. What are the common errors, and where can you find examples of bad practice?
How should you pitch a publisher with your book proposal? Or, to look at this another way, how should you not do so? This book answers that question.
Even if you are a non-fiction writer, this book is worth reading.
Another article in the 'bad writing' series, 7 Features of Bad Writing suggests some common characteristics of poor prose. Any one of these 'sins' would serve as an indicator, especially if they occur more than once or twice.
This book may be thirty years old, but its advice is still pertinent. If you want to have a blitz or crackdown against, or shake-up of, bad writing (all examples of 'tabloidese'), then this is the book for you.
Why do some writers write badly?