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Are they so deadly I should eschew them completely?

Prompting a bit of attention in the book blogosphere this week is a NY Times blog post on the Seven Deadly Words of Book Reviewing. At first glance, I thought it unlikely I had sinned by using the words (poignant, compelling, intriguing, eschew, craft, muse, lyrical). When I checked, though, I have committed a few offenses.

In looking at my book reviews, “compelling” is the deadly word I’ve used most. It shows up in nine reviews. Close behind is “intriguing,” appearing in seven reviews. Twice a variation of “craft” has appeared. Overall, though, I don’t think that’s bad. That’s a grand total of 18 instances in the course of reviewing more than 130 books. And I never used the words in the same review.

Thus, I’m inclined to think I feel compelled to use compelling only when I actually find something compelling and am intrigued only when I actually find something intriguing. Now perhaps my usage of the terms has not been 100 percent accurate. Still, one thing I know for sure is that if I ever describe a book or book passage as lyrical, I shall eschew book reviews for good.


By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth. …. We fashion things to suit the occasion or the person or our own needs in the moment.

George Carlin, The Progressive (July 2001)

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