Sunday, October 26, 2008

Okay, So How Negative ARE These?

Ever since I began reviewing, I’ve been looking at trends not only in my lukewarm/negative reviews, but also in others. Such as resorting to the word “okay” when the book isn’t good/great/amazing/spectacular/orgasmic:

“This book was okay.”

“All in all, this book was an okay read.”

Same with “all right”:

“This book was all right.”

“All in all, this book was an all right read.”

But when I think about it, the line between positive and negative blurs. Because I have used both expressions in describing something I had more than stale opinions about. Like, “You know what, I think he’s okay.” (Or replace with “all right”...)

Same goes with the word “readable”. If a book is “readable”, that’s supposed to be a GOOD thing, right? Not when I see it used. Usually indicated the reviewer has nothing better to say about the book, so she calls it readable. Then again, you can say something is “highly readable for [demographics]”, which becomes a positive.

Which gets me thinking: How negative ARE those terms? Or, how positive? Any others you can think of that carry the double meaning in reviews?


Anonymous said...

"All right" and "okay" to me, seem like negative words when used in reviews. Everyone knows writing is hard, and book reviewers do love books, so they don't want to rip an author if they don't have to. "All right" equals, I didn't hate this but didn't like it. Or meh...

Another word I see in reviews is "attemps to..." As in Author G attemps to do this, that and the other... Um no, they DID it, successfully, or they didn't...

The thing is, I don't want to spend money on "all right," or "attempts to" I want to spend money on, OMG, if you like X, Y and Z in your books then this book is for you.

That's why Reviewer X gives well-thought out reviews, you are specific. Even if YOU don't like a book I can still glean from your review if I might think it's good, and purchase or avoid accordingly.

Alea said...

I definitely know what you mean. I think I even use nice or good or fine for books that are just so-so. It's not like they are horrible but they aren't OMG FREAKOUT GREAT. I've been having problems expressing myself. I think my last review was an "ok" book but everyone thought I loved it I think, I did add the rating of 3/5 which isn't OMG love it, but they still thought i loved it. I don't know what to do.

Lana said...

I tend to use 'decent' - I really have to work on expanding my euphemisms for 'meh'.

I think these positive-negatives are situations where the book didn't really work for me, but I'm not sure whether it was because of who I am as a reader. Nothing against it really, but I wasn't wowed.
But I agree, that sort of reaction doesn't make me run out and buy the book.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I'm not sure I've ever used ok or all right in a review, but ok to me in a book review means "it wasn't terrible". I have used "readable" and that to me means it was easy to get through which is a positive quality to me.

WannabeWriter said...

I always see "This book was nothing spectacular, but ..." and then there's a few positive things noted. Or, "I liked it but ..." The kind of review that makes me look twice at a book is one where you can imagine the reviewer, like, squee-ing or glowing as s/he's writing the review. :]

Amee said...

Interesting topic. I'm not sure if I use okay or all right in my reviews. Usually I either like it or dislike it. If it's an inbetween I like to think I say what I liked and disliked without using a blanket term like okay.

If someone were to use the term readable I would probably assume that they mean the book wasn't real good but not so bad that they couldn't finish.

Like we discussed yesterday, I enjoy your reviews so much because even when they are negative I can figure out if it's a book I would like or not. I think that's what makes you one of the best reviewers. You don't use terms like "okay" often and information about a book can be taken away from your reviews even if it isn't glowing and gushy.

Alea said...

I just tagged you for a meme:

Feel free to pass on it if you want :D

nadine said...

Saying Alright and Okay are like saying the book was just BLAH. This means that while it wasn't totally boring, there was really nothing unique or amazing about it. The book was just like the one next door.


Leigh Purtill said...

No one wants to be mediocre. To read something you've written has been reviewed as merely "okay" feels like a dis; however, there are times - and books - when things are merely "all right." :)

Anonymous said...

Any word that's overused tends to lose its strength (think "awesome," "excellent," "seriously"). Regularly consulting a thesaurus can keep writers and reviewers from falling into this trap.

"Not" plus negative adjective can also be confusing ("It was actually not too bad." "This book isn't terrible."). It also makes for sloppy sentence construction and is best avoided.

P.S. Steph, I adore your site and check it often.

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