How Writers Write · Musings

What is pretentious writing?

So pretentious!

When I was in college, a friend and I would sometimes compare our creative writing classes with each other’s. We would discuss what makes a good critique, our stories, and classmates’ stories. Being foolish young adults, we sometimes even mocked our classmates’ writing for being “too pretentious”.

So what is it?

But what is pretentious? I would definite it as, trying too hard to mean something or be “deep”, to the point where all meaning is stripped from the piece and all that glares back at you is the writer’s flaming ego or cringe-worthy attempt to say something. Perhaps that is a cruel description; it is simply what comes to my mind when I try to define pretentiousness in writing. The dictionary says:

PRETENTIOUS: “1. characterized by assumption of dignity or importance, especially when exaggerated or undeserved:
a pretentious, self-important waiter.

2. making an exaggerated outward show; ostentatious”

Why pretentiousness may not make for good writing

This is how I feel about pretentious writing: it tries too hard, and when I see how hard the writer is trying, it pulls me out of the story. The best writers keep readers deep in their story, I feel.

Here is a piece that some would call pretentious. What do you think?


As a disclaimer, I would just like to say that I enjoy the content of the Midnight Breakfast website and am not picking on writer Steve Wilson. That is why I said that some people might find his piece pretentious; I did not say that I myself do or that all do.

What do you think? How do you define pretentious and what makes pretentious writing? Is your writing ever pretentious? I’m sure mine can be.

Until next time,




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