Thursday, November 11, 2010

Discussion Post: Is there such thing as a 'Reviewerspeak'?

While I was surfing through the net, I found an interesting article about The Top 20 Most Annoying Book Reviewer Cliches in the Examiner.

You guys already know the definition of 'newspeak' don't you? Just in case you don't know, it's the term George Orwell created and it means "whose vocabulary gets smaller every year."

In the article (and taken from there), it says the the 20 most annoying book reviewer cliches are as follows:


1. Gripping

2. Poignant: if anything at all sad happens in the book, it will be described as poignant

3. Compelling

4. Nuanced: in reviewerspeak, this means, "The writing in the book is really great. I just can't come up with the specific words to explain why."

5. Lyrical: see definition of nuanced, above.

6. Tour de force

7. Readable

8. Haunting


9. Deceptively simple: as in, "deceptively simple prose"

10. Rollicking: a favorite for reviewers when writing about comedy/adventure books

11. Fully realized

12. At once: as in, "Michael Connelly's The Brass Verdict is at once a compelling mystery and a gripping thriller." See, I just used three of the most annoying clichés without any visible effort. Piece of cake.

13. Timely

14. " X meets X meets X": as in, "Stephen King meets Charles Dickens meets Agatha Christie in this haunting yet rollicking mystery."

15. Page-turner

16. Sweeping: almost exclusively reserved for books with more than 300 pages

17. That said: as in, "Stephenie Meyer couldn't identify quality writing with a compass and a trained guide; that said, Twilight is a harmless read."

18. Riveting

19. Unflinching: used to describe books that have any number of unpleasant occurences -- rape, war, infidelity, death of a child, etc.

20. Powerful

Personally, I use these words in my reviews sometimes and don't find anything wrong with them. If these are the words that describe how you feel, then why the heck not use them? But of course, there's a difference between how you feel, and overusing these words. Of course, there's always room to improve your vocab and whatnot, but if you use these words over and over and over again, it can get pretty boring and less meaningful.

So, what's your take on this issue? What do you guys think is the most cliched word used by book reviewers?

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18 comments:

Nikola November 11, 2010 at 9:14 PM  

I actually like some of these! Especially "X meets Y" - if I know of X and Y, then I might get a pretty good idea of what the book is like. Besides, it's not at all easy to write a comparison like that. :)

Angela (Library Girl Reads) November 11, 2010 at 9:37 PM  

I find this list funny as I don't think I use these words much if at all in my reviews! They certainly don't stand out for me if I've seen them in reviews I've read either.

If these are the words that feel comfortable when describing a book, I see nothing wrong with that :-)

LM Preston November 11, 2010 at 11:04 PM  

I don't see them as cliche' ... I see them as buzz words, :-D

Tina November 11, 2010 at 11:24 PM  

I read loads of reviews and I've never thought of any words being cliched. In fact, I use and like some of those in the list. If it describes how you feel, use it.

Michelle November 11, 2010 at 11:51 PM  

I don't think I use too many of these but if I did oh well lol. I say use what you'd like. I try not to be too repetitive with word usage when I'm writing but sometimes the word that comes to mind first is the one that works the best. I've never used poignant though...love that word. I may just have to incorporate it into a review. Oooh yeah, that's right, I'm such a rebel haha. ;)

Karen November 12, 2010 at 12:04 AM  

I can't remember using any of these words in any of my reviews. I think it's fine as long as you don't fall back on certain words as a crutch because you can't come up with anything original to say. I agree - if it's what you feel, then use the word!

Leigh November 12, 2010 at 12:41 AM  

This was a rollicking adventure of a post, with an especially nuanced subtlety to the timeliness of recent events. :)

Personally I dig what you did with #12.

Simply_Megan November 12, 2010 at 1:36 AM  

I think that this is hilarious because I don't think I've ever used ANY of those words in one of my reviews. But it's weird because those are good adjectives to describe a book. If anything, words like "good", "bad", "enjoyable" etc. are overused.

Autumn November 12, 2010 at 2:13 AM  

I don't tend to use those words either. Although I agree with Nikola. I like the X meets Y thing. I like reading reviews that tell me things like that because it gives me a good understanding.

I've never once used Nuanced, but I have used lyrical and I thought it was appropriate.

Jessi E. (The Elliott Review) November 12, 2010 at 5:06 AM  

I know there are phrases I always want to use too much, but thankfully I think the only one above that I use is "powerful." I'm sorry ... If something is powerful, I'm going to say it's powerful! Dur!

Kayla November 12, 2010 at 8:41 AM  

I've noticed there are some words i tend to use more in my reviews, but they are none of these.

Sandy November 12, 2010 at 10:27 PM  

Wow I've never used any of these words or phrases but I do think I need to expand my vocab and I probably have my own set of words that I tend to reuse.

Miss Bookiverse November 12, 2010 at 11:44 PM  

Haha, what a great post. I recoginze a lot of those words from all kinds of reviews I read. I do agree with the article that a lot of them are annoying and don't exrpress a lot. I'm all for review-writers trying to describe their feelings as well and detailed as possible, without using boring phrases. Of course sometimes such a usual phrase is exactly what the book makes you feel like.

♫♥LovLivLife Reviews♥♫ November 13, 2010 at 1:06 AM  

LOL. I wonder who took the time to comprise the list. Half of them I dont think I've read in a review before.
And I agree with Nikola's comment... #14 is great if i know the author or even the movie. Brave Heart meets Inception. I like that very much.


I think this is a great post but I dont think it'll have any effect on the way ppl review. Personally, I'm not a writer so my reviews are simple. Actually, I used to attend early screenings for movies for a job I had. The purpose was to write reviews from a mom's point of view. The entertainment company that supplied the tickets specifically asked for reviewers who were prime examples of everyday customers. One of the Questions I would answer in my review would be: "Is it worth finding a sitter for the evening?"


Anyhow, sorry for the novel reply. I do find this list find interesting so thanks for sharing it! I will have to tab this post because even though I am not a writer I dont want to overkill words or phrases. =D LOL!

Beth November 13, 2010 at 6:12 AM  

I don't use any of them! (Maybe I should take notes, lol)
When I get a book and they have reviews on them they ALWAYS say those words. It just makes it sound way more profesional then if you just say, this book is awesome. I do that, it's the same thing as saying a powerful and Riveting tour de force. A few are OK but, to me, a lot of those words makes the review sound stuffy.


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Cass (Words on Paper) November 13, 2010 at 7:06 AM  

Author blurbs on books seem to be rabid with these words, especially poignant. Up until a month ago, I didn't even know what it truly meant, just that it was a good kind of thing.

Agreed with the above. I'll use whatever I'm comfortable with using. I DO feel like I recycle a lot of my vocab, but I'm not going to pull out the thesaurus just for reviews. That's just not me.

Vicki November 18, 2010 at 7:55 PM  

"I devoured this book!" I swear, if book-reading were a diet, I'd be all for it. As it is, I'm a little concerned at the amount of people chewing on books.

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