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Spicing Up Cliché Reviewing Phrases - by Arwee
Issue #49 of the Writing.Com Reviewing Newsletter.
Your editor is: Arwee

[ Table of Contents ]

1. About this Newsletter
2. Letter from the Editor
3. Editor's Picks
4. Ask & Answer
5. Useful Links

[ About this Newsletter ]

Cliché reviewing phrases, we know what they are, even if we may not be able to conjure them up at the moment. We’ve probably even used them in the past without realizing it, or we helped perpetuate them. It is my opinion that cliché reviewing phrases aren’t bad. This is just like how writing clichés aren’t necessarily bad. It all depends on how you use them.

[ Letter from the Editor ]

Clichés in reviews, just like clichés in writing can swing either way. Just like the clichés that appear in writing, what truly determines whether something is good or bad is in how someone uses it. For example, Discworld novels often contain clichés, but the author writes them in a satirical way or puts his own spin on them so that even though they are overused ideas, they are funny or fresh and work well in his writing.

Similarly, reviewers who run into clichés in their reviews can choose to spice them up a little. Make them informative, use them appropriately, or add some originality to them so they aren’t so much clichés, but basic ideas that the reviewer uses to build upon while crafting his or her review.

I remember when I first started writing about two or three years ago and joined this site, one of the very first cliché review phrases I picked up was, “Show, don’t tell”. Show, don’t tell has stuck with me and through the years, as I practiced the writing craft, it’s stuck in my mind and helped me improve my overall work. These days, I see that phrase often in public reviews where a reviewer tells a reviewee to, “Show, don’t tell”. Most reviews are good at explaining what this means, but once in a blue moon, someone will get it confused or say it but not tell the writer why.

Clichés exist because they are a common, sometimes overused phrase that most people have heard of before. But just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean everyone we meet will know of it. Take for example, a dapper fellow named Fred Astaire. You’ve probably heard of him, word has it that he was pretty light on his feet *Wink*. There’s very few people who lived in and around that era in North America who hasn’t heard of Fred Astaire. But what if someone was born just recently and in a country that doesn’t show too much American television? Obviously, they probably won’t know.

This example coincides with cliché reviewing phrases. Many people on WDC know and have probably heard of “show, don’t tell” but the same thing may not be true for someone new to the site or new to writing in general. I was lucky to get a WDC reviewer who went into great detail about what showing vs. telling was. Some newbies may not be so lucky. Lack of explanation on the reviewer’s part causes confusion. Confusion in some people may cause perpetuation of false information. Perpetuation of false information leads to more confusion and sooner or later, Fred Astaire isn’t a charming dancer anymore, he’s some sort of household appliance.

So, if reviewers were to use these cliché phrases, they need to stay conscious of what it means and ensure that their reviewee will understand what it means. This not only helps the revewee improve themselves, but, in my case, the advice sticks for years and years and gets passed onto other reviewees who will also benefit from it.

As already mentioned in this newsletter, “Show, don’t tell” is a very popular phrase these days. It basically highlights that a particular passage in a story, or the entire story isn’t describing a vivid enough image for the reader, or the language used is distant and lacks a certain level of immersion. Every reviewer, reader, and writer has a different threshold to constitute showing and telling. Your opinion will be what will base your idea of what is adequate and what is not. Therefore, it becomes important for reviewers to not only say “show, don’t tell” but to explain why. Why does the statement feel telly? Why does it need to be more showy? Why do you feel that readers need to be more immersed in a story? Remember, just like writers can’t assume their readers can read their minds, you as a reviewer, cannot presume a writer can read your mind. Give them a detailed explanation of your reasoning and they will better understand where you’re coming from.

Another popular cliché I see in reviews isn’t really a phrase, but rather a convention. A lot of reviewers include a disclaimer at the beginning or end of their reviews that inform the writer that what follows or what they just read was just the reviewer’s opinion. This isn’t a bad idea, it does protect you somewhat from writer retaliation and lets the writer know that you’re just expressing yourself. I personally do not use one because I assume that the writer understands that by offering their work up to the public, they will get honest opinions from the public back. But, if you use a disclaimer, always ensure that it is not longer than your actual review. I’ve seen reviews with a paragraph long disclaimer and about two sentences worth of actual review. Looks a little ridiculous, and makes it look like the reviewer trying to cheat the rewards system. Besides, if the review is really that short, perhaps the reviewer should consider not including the disclaimer or go into more detail about the author’s piece *Wink*.

Here’s one I’m guilty of. The phrase, “keep writing!” and similar phrases such as “good work!”, “keep at it!” and “write on!” Reviewers leave these little comments to encourage the writer or as a closing to their reviews. However, so many of us do it and use the same phrases over and over again that writers probably gloss over them now and instead of seeing a supportive “keep at it” they probably view it more like “goodbye”. The original support that those phrases may have held are less meaningful now. I made a note to myself before writing this newsletter that I’m going to try to stop ending my reviews with “good job” or something similar without a more substantial supportive phrase backing it. Maybe instead of “good work”, I’ll say, “Good work, your characters are really well developed and I enjoyed reading about them”. Or perhaps, “Keep writing! You have great idea for this story, and with some technical tweaking, it’ll really stand out as an enjoyable and unique piece”. Always be sincere when you support a writer, even if it’s not immediately obvious to us, an insincere comment can be readily detectable to others. Again, it’s okay to use these phrases to encourage others or use them as a closer for your review because we really mean it, but perhaps consider spicing things up by putting a little more substance into them.

There are other cliché reviewing phrases out there, I’ve only gone over three. But just because they exist, doesn’t mean we cannot use them to our advantage.

[ Editor’s Picks ]

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#1369827 by Not Available.

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#1148008 by Not Available.

The Creators  (E)
"It happens sometimes that even the best of intentions have a strange way of..."
#1187691 by silverfeathers

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#1444614 by Not Available.

[ Ask and Answer ]

If you have any questions, comments, general suggestions, or suggestions for editor’s pick (even your own work! *Smile* ), please send them to me. I’ll be more than happy to feature them in the next newsletter and address them to the best of my ability. It should be noted that if you send me e-mails, I will ask to use your comments in the Ask and Answer section.

Fallser Wrote re: “Top 10 Reviewer Habits”:
Thanks for this top 10 list. Great idea for the newsletter. I wanted to talk to you about the no. 1 point — Reviewers who stick around. I agree that the best reviews come from people who know your work, and, on the flip side, it's much easier to review when you understand a bit about the history, style, and goals of the author you're reviewing. How do you think is the best way to develop this relationship? As part of the Rising Star group for example, we are supposed to review three other Rising Stars a month, so there is no incentive to really get into an author's port. There are reviewers who do port raids, but this still doesn't establish the on-going give and take of regular reading and reviewing of a writer's work. So, based on your experience here, how have you developed these relationships, since they do prove so fruitful as one tries to revise and develop a style?
Thanks again for the great newsletter!
Arwee Wrote:
Thanks for writing in! Many of my repeat reviewers have also become my friends and I value each and every one of them very much. Over the years, they’ve become my greatest resource for writing knowledge. They’ve kept me on track and made sure I never gave up. I think every writer needs people like that in their lives, to support them and help pick them up. I found many of my repeat reviewers through reviewing groups. I suggest finding groups that cater to a genre you write in or read in a lot, or a group that’s geared towards reviewing. In my experience, small and active groups are more personal and I am more likely to get to know everyone on a more personal level than large groups. However, I wouldn’t discount the value of a large group because you can still meet very nice people there too. Finding a good, active group that’s small is sometimes hard since a lot of the groups out there have been abandoned or haven’t seen activity in months. Keep at it, though, they’re out there! If you can’t find what you’re looking for in a group, consider starting one yourself.
I may suggest, that anyone looking for a repeat reviewer to try to engage a reviewer who has reviewed you that you liked. If they made some comments about your piece, respond to those positively, ask for clarification if you need it, ask them what they thought about parts in your story that you were concerned or excited about. Most reviewers will be helpful and answer your questions. Offer to do a review of their piece and make the effort to get to know them and be friendly. Making friends with other writers is probably your best bet to get repeat reviewers.
Thanks for the though provoking question and thanks again for writing in. *Smile*

[ Useful Links ]

*Bullet* "Feedback Central – Send the editors some suggestions and general feedback.
*Bullet* "Reviewing Newsletters Archive – View previous issues of the Reviewing Newsletter.

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Created: 09-10-09 @ 11:31am | Modified: 09-10-09 @ 11:34am      

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