Sunday, 26 October 2008

Seven Deadly Words

Seven Deadly Words of book reviewing as in over used to the point of meaningless-ness. From the New York Times article. They often come in batches. My italics below.

poignant: Something you read may affect you, or move you. That doesn’t mean it’s poignant. Something is poignant when it’s keenly, even painfully, affecting. When Bambi’s mother dies, an adult may think it poignant. A child probably finds it terrifying.

compelling: Many things in life and in books are compelling. The problem is that too often in book reviews far too many things are found to be such. A book may be a page turner, but that doesn’t necessarily make it compelling. Overuse has weakened a word that implies an overwhelming force.

intriguing: It doesn’t mean merely interesting or fascinating although it’s almost always used in place of one of those words. When it is, the sense of something illicit and mysterious is lost. Or it might be a cop out word for a book the reviewer didn't like or didn't understand.

eschew: No one actually says this word in real life. It appears almost exclusively in writing when the perp is stretching for a flashy synonym for avoid or reject or shun.

craft (used as a verb): In “The Careful Writer,” Theodore M. Bernstein reminds us that “the advertising fraternity has decided craft is a verb.” Undeterred, reviewers use it when they are needlessly afraid of using plain old write. They also try to make pen a verb, as in “he penned a tome.” And anyway, he probably word-processed it.

lyrical: Reviewers use this adjective when they want to say something is well written. But using the word loosely misses the sense of expressing emotion in an imaginative and beautiful way. Save lyrical for your next review of Wordsworth.

The next ... fill in the blanks, JK Rowling, Stephen King, Jeffrey Archer, Zadie Smith.
Here's another post on how to write a bad review.

4 comments:

BarbaraS said...

Nice one EW - that's certainly got me thinking... over at mine :)

French Fancy said...

Hello. I've black boxed my way to you from France. Interesting blog you've got.

Emerging Writer said...

Thanks for dropping by FF. I love the money poem on your blog (October 9th)

PJ Nolan said...

Hah. this is great - I'm definitely guilty of a fondness for 'craft' as a verb. But then, I do think it is valid desciption of writing that has been ....ermmm.. crafted. :-) My current weakness is 'resonances' - I can't open my bloody mouth without it falling out.