We all know that sometimes reviewing books can be hard (I’ve written a post on this here), and that finding the right words to express yourself clearly and coherently is sometimes a struggle!
I’ve recently noticed that I tend to fall back on many of the same words and phrasing in many of my reviews because I know they work and help me to get from one part of a review to another more easily. At the risk of all of my reviews sounding the same, I have to actively try and not use these phrases when I’m writing.
Looking back over my posts from the last three years, these five expressions have popped up more times that I can count and stand out as being some of my most overused fall-back phrases…
- ‘It soon becomes clear’ – This is the perfect way to round off a plot summary with a bang and get onto the actual analysis of what I thought about a book, and I seem to be able to use it while talking about literally every book!
- ‘That said’ or ‘having said that’ – If I’m trying to write a balanced review that looks at both positives and negatives, this is a quick way to get from one to the other. I write it in every review and then have to force myself to go back and rewrite!
- ‘I wasn’t overly keen on…’ – Usually to be read as ‘I didn’t like this at all but I’m trying to be polite’.
- ‘Kept me gripped’ – If I’m scrambling to explain exactly why I was so absorbed in a book, this phrase inevitably pops up. It says nothing but hopefully conveys there was a certain something that kept me reading!
- ‘Ultimately though…’ – I sometimes struggle with ending a review. You can’t just stop, you need a way to round it all off nicely. This is my go-to last sentence starter.
Not using these phrases is harder than you’d think. My fingers type them automatically out of habit. As writing is literally what I do for a living (not the exciting creative writing kind though unfortunately), I feel like I should be better at finding alternative ways to express my opinions about books.
How do you write book reviews? Are there certain words you come back to time and time again? What are your most overused expressions?
13 thoughts on “Discussion post: Overused expressions in book reviews”
I constantly have to put effort into making my book review sound more different from each other… it’s so easy to slip into auto-pilot when writing them! Great post!!
I know! I obviously have a standard template hidden away somewhere in my brain that I just churn out every time I sit down to write a review!
I try to concentrate on the book itself. Honestly, I don’t worry about overusing phrases or figures of speech. If I concentrate upon what I liked, what I didn’t, and what I want the reader of the review to know about the book, I can write an informative and truthful review. I always do a “find” just as when I edit my own manuscripts. Things like that stand out for the author more than for the reader. I think anything worth writing is worth careful editing.
I completely agree with you about being honest and truthful – but from my point of view I want to improve as a writer – even if it’s just in the way that I write reviews!
For me it’s “breathtaking” and “I couldn’t put it down.” Which, honestly, most of the time I couldn’t put it down, so it’s easy to see why I would write that! But honestly, every book can’t be breathtaking! I just run out of adjectives to use, and apparently that is my default. Working on that.
Haha yes, ‘I couldn’t put it down’ is another favourite of mine! Sometimes it’s hard to find the write adjective though I think when you’re trying to say how a book made you feel!
Ha-ha! I’m going to have to look back and see what I use too often. I know I write “overall” WAY too often.
‘Overall’ is a great one for summing up! It appears in a LOT of my reviews!
I always end up using “though”, “however” and “anyways” 😂 😂 I actually think my most used word is either anyways or however haha. Or actually, since I use that word almost every paragraph!
Same here! ‘However’ is a definite favourite!
Hahah I’m so glad you wrote this because I find myself saying the same things over and over again in reviews. It’s always something like “could not put this book down”, “read it until the early morning” (which I admittedly do), and “massive understatement.” It’s so bad, but I can’t stop myself because I always go blank trying to come up with another way to say something!
I completely agree! Sometimes summing up what a book made you feel in words is like trying to herd cats, so it’s always good to have a few tried and tested phrases to fall back on! Once I’ve noticed I’m doing it though it drives me mad!! 🙂
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