I am looking for a word to reflect what a novice author would use to describe his own writing (somewhat derogatorily). My first thought was drivel.

  • 5
    Did you mean drivel?
    – simchona
    Sep 23, 2013 at 2:18
  • I think I did. Although that rings closer to "silly" than "bad quality". Any other ideas?
    – nachocab
    Sep 23, 2013 at 2:25
  • 5
    'Silly' would be 'bad quality'. But you haven't explained whether you want a term for bad handwriting or bad authorship (hence the different answers below). Sep 23, 2013 at 6:38
  • You should edit your question, and change dribble to drivel. You'll probably get more answers as a result.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 23, 2013 at 17:18
  • Thanks for all the comments in this answer. They've helped me form a clearer picture about how this online community works.
    – nachocab
    Sep 24, 2013 at 15:56

8 Answers 8


Hack (hackwork), drek, schlock, pulp, sludge (only because fiction magazine editors call the mass of submissions that come over the transom the "sludge pile").


Perhaps the word you are looking for is scrawl

v.tr. To write hastily or illegibly.

v.intr. To write in a sprawling, irregular manner.


  1. Irregular, often illegible handwriting.
  2. Something, such as a note, written hastily or illegibly.


His awful writing is nothing but scribbles.


And yet, the film works in spite of all its cute writerly and aesthetic doodling.

The examples are googlable.

  • My disagreement here is that these are examples of a critic's creative literary license in colorfully, somewhat playfully, chastising the writer's work. I don't take them as substantive synonyms for "bad writing" that would stand on their own outside the context of their respective critiques. Sep 24, 2013 at 4:22
  • @JohnM.Landsberg I have no quibble with your opinion that these are not substantive synonyms for bad writing, because we share that opinion. But I do hope you're not disagreeing with my including them here. I wasn't going by the title of this q, but by what OP had written: "I'm thinking dribble." I thought scribble and doodle would be right on par with dribble. I was really only trying to be helpful to him; he obviously needed a derrogatory word. Also, I don't think my suggestions are, for most uses, as good as yours (one of those upvotes was mine).But what if someone just needs sth different?
    – Talia Ford
    Sep 24, 2013 at 5:04
  • 1
    Plus, they follow the same phonological shtik: dribble shlock sludge doodle scribble. Their meaning is almost less important than their onomatopoeic potential (when that's what an author wants to go for).
    – Talia Ford
    Sep 24, 2013 at 5:07
  • In fact you're quite correct, and I didn't intend "disagreement" to be a harsh assessment. Nor did I downvote, because I don't disagree with you including them here. Your thinking is in line with mine. And by the way, I'll take this opportunity to mention I've taken note of your other answers, which are remarkable, to say the least. I would be more than fascinated to see what your profile would say, if you were to fill it in! Sep 24, 2013 at 5:10

It's called cacography.

defined as:

bad handwriting; poor penmanship.


I have pretty bad handwriting. Once a person called my handwriting 'chicken-scratch'. That sounded appropriate for bad handwriting.

  • LOL chicken-scratch. I just used your jargon for a secondary school student ;)
    – bonCodigo
    Nov 8, 2015 at 11:34

Amateurish writing is used to describe a style of writing that is poor.


Doggerel. I don’t know if anyone applies the word to his or her own writing, but it’s a good word for other people’s tripe.


I'd call bad writing trash or garbage.

Not exactly relevant to your question though fits the topic: in Russian we call bad writing макулатура (wastepaper).

  • In one English article, I saw the word maculature being used to describe bad writing. It should be of no surprise that English has the word; macula is Latin for stain.
    – Talia Ford
    Sep 23, 2013 at 5:38
  • Thank you, @Talia, I was wondering whether this word is used the same way in English.
    – Mykola
    Sep 23, 2013 at 6:49
  • According to Webster's, it's not: Maculature Mac"ulature\, n. Blotting paper. [Obs.] See the Ngram at books.google.com/ngrams/… to decide on whether 'this word is [really] used the same way in English'. Sep 23, 2013 at 6:53
  • I see your point, @Edwin. Exactly this definition one will find in any academic Russian dictionary—blotting paper, that is. ...Which doesn't stop anyone from using the word meaning blotting paper figuratively to describe a piece of bad writing.
    – Mykola
    Sep 23, 2013 at 7:11
  • @EdwinAshworth Ngram doesn't show it, but the secondary, figurative, derrogatory meaning of maculature does exist in English. The article I've read is not the only example of such use, here's a few more:
    – Talia Ford
    Sep 23, 2013 at 8:54

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