The Official Extra Reading Writing Contest!

Hey, look! More high weirdness from the zombie known as The Extra Reading Company — a creature that just won’t die no matter how many times it’s shot and that suffers from a desperate lack of brains.

If you care to, you can read the short article I wrote about ERC for Secular Homeschooling:

If you have another eight or nine hours to spare, you can read the follow-up rant at the Mad Editor blog:

If you don’t have that kind of time, take my word for it: ERC is bad news. Their CEO is nasty, deceptive, and a terrible writer — and that last one is a particularly unforgivable quality in someone who writes educational material for children.

More evidence of this ickiness landed in my mailbox this morning. Someone posted a comment on the Mad Editor blog posting letting me know that, sadly, ERC is still in business and still being run by someone whose idea of outstanding customer service is siccing his non-rabid starving guard dog on your newborn.

A woman who was hoping to be an ERC customer posted the entirety of an email exchange she had with Josh Mason on The Parenting Pod, a link to which was given to me and which I offer now to you. This one I need you to read, if only so that you don’t have to take my word for it that ERC’s idea of customer service also includes helpful hints, such as that their customers please refrain from being retarded on the premises:

The guy doesn’t admit that he’s Josh, but that writing style is unmistakable. Lots of quotation marks. A surfeit of sentences beginning with “so” or “but” followed by an unnecessary comma. Lots of random commas, in fact. Hyphens, hyphens everywhere. A deep and abiding love of the word “such.”

And an ego the size of the moon, with no discernible redeeming qualities with which to rationalize it. Yep, that’s him.

As I wrote, I’ve had my own run-ins with him. It’s been a few years, though, and I’d forgotten just what a nasty piece of work he is.

Seen from the right angle, though, he can be deeply entertaining. And that’s where you come in.

I read the entire Parenting Pod posting aloud to my husband and son at the dinner table, including such gems as the hyphenation of phrases like “lighten-up” and “time-to-time.” We were all incensed — but by the end of the exchange, we were also howling with laughter.

That evening turned into “Write Like Josh!” night at our house — especially when I shared some choice bits from ERC’s “Questions and Answers” page, which reads in spots as if it’s been translated into Japanese and back again by someone struggling to understand our punctuation. “Our advice as to choosing a price is for you to offer the most you can afford to pay; given your financial situation. The way this system works is that those who pay more, allow others to pay less who struggle financially.”

This style turns out to be delightfully contagious.

“Mom,” my son said. “Could you, comma, rinse hyphen this hyphen dish? Semicolon.”

Which gave me one of those brilliant ideas that happen maybe once in a lifetime.

You know the Bad Hemingway contest?

It’s time for some Bad Extra Reading Writing.

Post your entries here. They can be as long or as short as you like. Content is entirely up to you, but you need to include at least one sadly misplaced comma and one jarring semicolon. A special prize will be awarded for best use of bizarrely random hyphenation. Remember: NEVER use italics for emphasis. That’s what capital letters are for. And don’t forget that oozing condescension!

When we get enough entries, we will publish them in a book that will be available at whatever price you can afford ($100).

9 Responses to “The Official Extra Reading Writing Contest!”

  1. Pearson says:

    If you require additional source-material; I have now updated the-original-page to include the completely insane response he posted; then; deleted on Reddit :)

    • Deborah says:

      Thanks for the laugh and for letting me know about Bridget’s situation. I found the conversation on Reddit afterwards — and did some well-earned cringing about the formatting of my “Nellie Bly” blog posting. I’ve neatened it up in that respect, but it’s still waaaay too long. Ah, to be young and chatty again…

  2. Markus says:

    Dear, Fat-head,
    My, product-is-perfect. You, can pay whatever price-you-want, as long as it, is way-to-much.
    Lighten-up, moron. Go, soak your head. You-smell.
    A Friend :)

  3. April says:

    I am writing to inform you that this contest, and other contests as such, only go to prove my point – which is, of course, that all people, everywhere are – STUPID.

    The words I have used with you in my previous e-mail interactions have proven one thing only; that I am AMAZING, and you, suck. Why is it that you continue to leave me no choice but to offer you the amazing-education-on-being-correct that only I can give to you? Seriously. Contest writers, I find your lack of grasp of the English language and grammar to show one thing only; you are all cretans. That is all.


    The only one who has ever written in this style, tone or amazing-ness.

  4. Peter says:

    How about an actual reply from the “Man-Himself”

    Oh, so 100 dissatisfied morons among nearly 20,000 active subscribers?

    Wow. That’s a HUGE percentage! I’m SURPRISED it’s that SMALL of a number. The sheer percentage of idiots out there, capable of becoming bitchy for no reason whatsoever, should logically indicate that the number of nonsensical complaints be even higher. Though, I’m sure the truly retarded aren’t too talented at using computers or the Internet. So, perhaps this isn’t as surprising after all. Though, your count of people actually cranky and overly-sensitive enough to post a negative review on the Internet is clearly embellished, to say the least. Nevertheless, we DON’T WANT customers who get nonsensically bitchy when they read a customer service message incorrectly, and then STILL refuse to say “Hey, I was wrong about the tone of that message,” when they are told so. We have no time for morons who refuse to listen to reason. So, in these instances, they are cast aside so that we can spend our time on reasonable customers. It’s that simple.

    Now, it’s wonderful that you admit your error. You were wrong. But, not so great that you take issue with our staff calling your behavior “puzzling.” What you did was NOT READ or NOT COMPREHEND the original offer E-mail you received and then MADE THE MISTAKE of doing something else entirely, that had NOTHING to do with the special offer, and were then CONFUSED when the response you received WASN’T ABOUT that special offer.

    Yes, that behavior is puzzling. Especially so for an educator. You could have avoided all of this by simply reading for comprehension, something I’m sure you try to teach your students. Still, you fail miserably at doing it yourself in the real world.

    You’re blaming our representatives for saying, “Hey! Why didn’t you just read the information and do as you were instructed?”

    I think that’s a perfectly logical response, which again, is why I stand by my employee’s communication with you.



    Learn to appreciate candor, rather than disdain it. You’ll grow as a person, instead of continuing your stunted, instinctive reaction of responding to everything on an emotional basis.

  5. Marcey says:

    Here was my resopnse to that sad soul. Enjoy, and thank you for opening this forum. My husband and I, like you, sat around writing different things to this jerk; it was fun, and a very freeing experiencing.

    You were so correct! I am such a dummy. I should really lose my certificate for being this dumb. I mean really, if I have to ask questions that are this stupid,( and it matters not how respectful I am), I deserve to be put in my place. I thank you for your willingness to take the time to show me how smart people think, and I only hope that one day I will come close to being able to enlighten others as you have enlightened me. If I were not a logical person, I might take your comments emotionally, but I know that lessons can be learned at any part of the walk we take through life, and listening to the truth, no matter its harshness, is only for the weak. I will not be weak! I will take your words, imbed them in my mind, know they come from a fountain of brilliance, be aware that there is no correct time or place to dish out what I now know (through you) humanity needs. Humanity needs more hostility, more anger, less tolerance, less self filtering, more displaced negative emotions, more attacking, and less understanding, less walking in the shoes of others, less intrinsic desire to consider the consequesnces of actions. There are but a chosen few who really know the answers and what IT is all about, and you….well you… are NEO, you can change the matrix!!!

    You should be commended on your fine customer service. I began to view you as the Great Oz behind your curtain of wisdom, knowing you would lead me until………until………So many other people looked behind your curtain…………..and you reacted with such emotion at having been found out that you felt it necessary to throw negative energy at us. I thought you were lead by logic…what happened? A logical person does not lower himself with ad hominems; he accepts that he is beyond others and allows the peasants to be as they are: blissfully stupid. Why, why, why did you reach down to us and shatter our faulty reality? We were stupid, but surviving. You couldn’t be happy just looking down upon us knowing there was no hope for us; we are not the chosen.

    I saw that you are caught up in your self serving fantasy, as was Oz himself.
    After awhile, nobody gave any attention to the man behind the curtain.
    Take a healthy dose of your own medicine little one. Rant and rave, twist and shout; you will get no response from me.

    And take some advice from Billy Joel———–

    There’s a place in the world for the angry young man
    With his working class ties and his radical plans
    He refuses to bend, he refuses to crawl
    And he’s always at home with his back to the wall.
    He’s proud of the scars and the battles he’s lost
    He struggles and bleeds as he hangs on the cross
    And he likes to be known as the angry young man.

    Give a moment or two to the angry young man
    With his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand
    He’s been stabbed in the back, he’s been misunderstood
    It’s a comfort to know his intentions are good
    He sits in a room with a lock on the door
    With his maps and his medals laid out of the floor
    And he likes to be known as the angry young man.

    I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage,
    I’ve found that just surviving was a noble fight
    I once believed in causes too, had my pointless point of view
    Life went on no matter who was right or wrong.

    And there’s always a place for the angry young man
    With his fist in the air and his head in the sand
    He’s never been able to learn from mistakes
    He can’t understand why his heart always breaks
    His honor is pure, and his courage as well
    He’s fair and he’s true, and he’s boring as hell
    And he’ll go to his grave as an angry old man.

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