Sentenced to death

30Jun09

Today’s Star Tribune announced the winner of this year’s Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

David McKenzie of Washington state took the grand prize with this winning entry:

“Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin’ off Nantucket Sound from the nor’ east and the dogs are howlin’ for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the “Ellie May,” a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin’ and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.”

Groan.

The thing about this contest is that it praises purposefully preposterous prose (alliteration, anyone?). But what I’d really like to see is a contest that rewards unintentionally mangled sentences.

Consider Exhibit A, a sentence so structurally unsound it should be condemned—to death:

The leaders met to discuss a vision statement for company and the discussion focused around introducing a vision statement that focused on elevating the profile of the consumer and build a consumer facing organization while not discounting the importance of our distributors.

Wow. Hope I get picked for that committee! (And no, I didn’t plagiarize that from “Dilbert.”)

I used to think that labyrinthine sentences were a sign of intelligence. Now I know that the opposite is true: Intelligent writing is clear and concise.

My congratulations go to Mr. McKenzie. Keep the rum flowin’!



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