• 5-minute read
  • 18th August 2020

5 Terrible Tips for Writing Bad Poetry

Today is Bad Poetry Day. In other words, it’s a time to write awful verse without any shame! And we have five tips for writing truly terrible poems:

  1. Use simple rhymes without thinking about whether they’re appropriate.
  2. Mix up the order of words so it sounds “arty.”
  3. Use weak modifiers that leave little impression on your readers.
  4. Be hugely literal (metaphor and simile are for losers).
  5. Sprinkle in clichés people have heard a thousand times before.

For more on how to write bad poetry, read on below!

1. Use Simple Rhymes

For some people, poetry equals rhyming. And if it doesn’t rhyme in every line, it isn’t a poem. This isn’t true by any standard – many poems avoid rhyming completely. But if you want your poem to sound a bit rubbish, using simple rhymes throughout is a good first step.

To do this, you’ll need to pick a rhyme scheme. Stick to simple, repetitive patterns, like rhyming couplets. This is when each pair of lines rhymes:

I want to write
Deep into the night
But poetry is hard
And I’m not a bard

If you’re feeling more ambitious, you could try rhyming alternating lines:

Rhyming is easy
When you know how
But this poem is cheesy
So it’s time to say ciao

You can even experiment with awkward half rhymes if you like!

2. Mix Up Your Words

Anastrophe involves changing the standard word order of a sentence for emphasis. For example, rather than saying “The night was cold,” we could use anastrophe and say “Cold was the night” to give it a more dramatic edge.

Admittedly, this sounds a bit odd and old-fashioned, but those qualities can really add to a bad poem, especially if you use it to force an awkward rhyme:

Use well this figure of speech
Lest readers faint away with a screech

Here, for instance, we’d usually say “Use this figure of speech well.” But “well” doesn’t rhyme with “screech.” And rather than find another word that fits, we’ve decided to mix up the sentence to force the rhyme. After all, why try harder when you can just torture English grammar to fit your needs?

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

3. Add Plenty of Weak Modifiers

A good poem will paint an image in the reader’s mind with powerful, evocative language. As such, to write a bad poem, you should sprinkle plenty of weak adjectives and adverbs throughout.

By “weak,” we mean words that don’t say much about the thing described, like “nice” or “good.” But other common modifiers are good, too, especially if you use them in place of a more dynamic verb or noun.

For example, if we wanted to say that someone was running, we could use verbs like “dashes,” “sprints,” or “races.” However, these words immediately conjure up a feeling of speed, so they risk making your reader feel something. To avoid this, then, we would just say “runs very fast.”

4. Be Very Literal

Metaphors and similes are essential to poetry, letting us see familiar things anew. To write a bad poem, though, try to make it as literal as possible. State things plainly, avoiding any figurative imagery. For example:

The sun is very hot
It makes me sweat a lot
I wish it wasn’t sunny
‘Cause heat makes me feel funny

Sure, there may be more lyrical ways of evoking summer heat. But in bad poetry, you don’t want to leave any room for interpretation!

5. Throw in a Tired Cliché or Two

Never underestimate the power of a cliché. We’ve touched upon several poetic clichés already, such as the idea that poetry has to rhyme. In this case, though, we’re thinking of phrases so overused they have lost all power:

A sea of grass sways in the breeze
I sit here, fresh as a daisy
Days like this are the bee’s knees
All fun and games, feeling so lazy

Stock phrases like these will really show off your lack of imagination.

How to Write Good Poetry

Not so keen on writing bad poetry? Then maybe you should do the exact opposite of what we recommend above. In practice, this means you should:

  1. Use rhyme carefully and remember that poetry doesn’t have to rhyme.
  2. If you are going to use anastrophe, make sure it doesn’t leave you with awkward sentence structures that ruin the flow of your poem.
  3. Focus on evocative language, especially dynamic verbs.
  4. Use metaphors and similes to engage your reader’s imagination.
  5. Avoid clichéd and overused phrases wherever possible.

And if you’d like to be sure you avoid any of the “bad poetry” pitfalls mentioned in this post, our poetry proofreading services are always available. Just let us know how we can help!

Comments (2)
Terry Minor
13th July 2022 at 23:27
Walt Whitman, Robert Frost And Dylan Thomas used rhymes. Dylan Thomas even used internal rhymes. Your just being poetry snobs. Who are just trying make money telling people they''re work is bad.
    14th July 2022 at 08:37
    Hi, Terry. This is a jokey post about pitfalls to avoid if you're new to writing poetry, and our point was that, while rhyme is obviously a big part of poetry, it isn't compulsory and relying on basic rhymes too much may make poetry sound simplistic. We're certainly not saying that poetry should avoid rhyme entirely. We even say at the end of the post that, used carefully, rhyme is a key part of good poetry as well. Hope that clarifies the situation!

Got content that needs a quick turnaround?

Let us polish your work.

Explore our editorial business services.

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading
institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.