Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stock Phrases

Tonight I stumbled upon a list of "Top 20 Most Annoying Book Reviewer Cliches". I figured I would be guilty of some of them, and that suspicion was confirmed.  As I've been trying to move from informal comments to more helpful reviews, it looks like I shall have to consult my Strunk and White for tips on how not to be so predictable!

Granted, it's not as though the Examiner is the final authority on writing book reviews. Some phrases are unquestionably bland (like "readable", a phrase I flinch at using even though I keep doing it), but others may be simply overused.  The list below is copied in full from the site.
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


  1. I like the little dig at Stephenie Meyer you managed to get in there!

  2. Oh, that's not mine: I copied the list from the site. I haven't even read the Twilight books!

  3. Ouch--looks like I've engaged in most of those myself. But my biggest pet peeve in review writing didn't make the list: describing anything in a book as "pitch-perfect."

  4. I saw pitch-perfect in another list! It seems a very strange description to me.


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