"Bad writing" can either mean the use of words, idioms, the figure of speech, or grammar is terrible, but it can also mean that the plot is horrible. How do you precise it's the latter? Is there a more precise way of saying "bad writing"?

For example, have a look at this sentence:

The fact that many characters appear in the story to never surface ever again is bad writing.

  • Your question isn't clear. Are you asking about bad writing in general or about bad plotting in particular? Dec 19, 2020 at 10:02

5 Answers 5


The phrase “bad writing” is an all-inclusive phrase. Bad writing occurs in many forms, and there is no single term that is more precise, only specific examples or instances. The quoted sentence cites one of these. There are many others.


You can say that the writing is hackneyed:


: lacking in freshness or originality
// hackneyed slogans

A similar word (I don't like it as much, but it might be more common) is banal:

: lacking originality, freshness, or novelty : TRITE

  • Hackneyed describes originality, not execution. Any airport bookshop is filled with deftly-plotted, well-realised works of fiction filled with believable characters, that are still hackneyed.
    – KrisW
    Nov 5, 2019 at 16:46

"Bad plotting" would cover it.

  • “Bad plotting” is a specific example of bad writing. “Bad writing” can refer to a great many faults. Dec 19, 2020 at 3:41
  • Yes, that's why you use to be precise.
    – Mary
    Dec 19, 2020 at 3:57
  • Sorry, I thought your answer was proposed as a synonym for bad writing. Dec 20, 2020 at 3:53

I think in this case, you're talking more specifically about bad storytelling. Bad writing would make sense here, but is more broad, and it sounds like you're referring to the plot and story itself, not only the writing.


You could also use the expression bad literature:

The fact that many characters appear in the story to never surface ever again is/makes the book/novel/short story bad literature.

In an article of Pittsburg Post Gazette you will find this sentence among others:

When it comes to bad literature there often are no absolutes.

In this discussion, you will find some features of bad literature.

However, looking at some forums online, I see people use bad writing as a synonym of bad literature, and given your context, I believe there is no ambiguity at to what you mean, nobody will think you mean misspelling or grammar mistakes.

Have a look at this question on EL&U, it might help you find some other words.

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