Book bloggers: Are we too nice?

This post was inspired in part by Puput, whose blog is phenomenal. She just wrote a wonderful post about writing negative/unpopular reviews. Please go read it!

I’ve been thinking of writing about this for a long time now, and now that I’m refreshed after NaBloPoMo, I’m back and ready. Puput mentioned in her post about how writing negative reviews can be nerve-wracking because you don’t know how other bloggers are going to react. Sometimes we feel like we have to sugar-coat our criticisms, especially if we’re reviewing a popular title that everyone else loved. I know that feeling. I think most of us do.

Puput makes a strong argument for why sugar-coating shouldn’t be necessary and offers tips on writing negative reviews. What I want to add to the discussion is that not only should we not be afraid to criticize well-loved works, but we shouldn’t be afraid to disagree with each other in the comments. Only yesterday I was commenting on someone’s review of a popular book that I disagreed with. I found myself adding a lot of “lols” and “hahas” to my comment in order to lighten up the tone of my disagreements. Why do we feel we have to do this?

Thankfully, the book blogger community is incredibly polite, generous, and inclusive. I have never once had even a slightly rude, let alone hateful or offensive, comment on any post, even the posts I’ve written that have offered potentially controversial opinions. That is awesome! However, I can probably count on my fingers how many times in my 3 years of book blogging that I’ve actually had a prolonged, engaged comment discussion centered on a disagreement. And they were great. I want more!

Point is, we shouldn’t be afraid to disagree or present our opinions clearly without hiding behind lols. This applies to writing posts and comments alike. Especially if it’s a blogger you’ve known for a while, there’s no reason not to have respectful, engaged disagreements. This will enrich our blogs and our relationships. And I’m like one of the most non-confrontational, will-pretend-to-agee-with-you-to-avoid-an-argument people you will probably ever meet. I suspect a lot of book bloggers identify with me when I say that. We’re a special breed, voicing our opinions into the vast void of the internet without talking directly to anyone. Sound familiar?

Donna shouting into thin air

I have some tips for those struggling with this same problem and want to sound less like an overly-polite poop in posts and/or comments. My tips all concern language:

  1. Don’t use unironic “lols” and “hahas” (unless you or someone else actually said something funny). As a rule, I NEVER use “lol” or “haha” in posts because they sound too casual. (The exception here is when I’m being ironic or cheeky in a post, cause I do do that. Haha, do do…) Lols and hahas are more acceptable in comments, but only use them when something is actually funny, rather than as fillers for making your disagreements sound less harsh. I need to practice what I preach here for sure.
  2. Be aware of your “I think,” “I believe,” and “I feel like”s. This is the former English teacher in me coming out. Whenever my students were writing argumentative essays (which was often), I would write “I think” in red on the board with a giant circle and X over it. As I explained to my students, these words do nothing except make your argument sound less confident. 99% of the time, you can get rid of them and still have a grammatically correct sentence, so get your Ctrl+F keys ready. However, I tend to use these phrases more often in blogs because blogs are obviously different than argumentative academic essays. Blogs have a different purpose and different audience and therefore require different tone and language choices. So I’m not saying to get rid of all your “I thinks” because there are times when they are 100% ok. I like to use them to make my blogging voice sound genuine, natural, and relaxed rather than stiff, cold, and unrelatable. But other times I need a sentence to be more assertive, so I omit it. Be conscious of how often you use this so you can be aware of where it’s necessary and where it’s not.
  3. “Really,” “very,” “pretty,” “definitely,” “quite,” etc. are really very quite unnecessary fillers. Many people think using words like “really” or “very” emphasizes their point. It doesn’t. It typically has the opposite effect. For example, which sentence sounds more confident? A. “The author didn’t really support her argument” or B. “The author didn’t support her argument”? If you picked B, you get a cookie! Before I post anything, I do a Ctrl+F for these fillers that I tend to use when I’m blogging away to the conversational voice in my head that uses these words. Then I delete them. Well, 90% of the time I delete them. Like anything, sometimes they are appropriate. But again, be aware of how often you use filler words because the overall impact they can have on the post or comment can weaken your voice.

If you want to read more on this, I still encourage you to check out Puput’s post because she covered excellent other ways you can write effective opinions, specifically in negative reviews. But these tips can be applied to any post or comment you make.

I normally don’t offer advice in posts, so this was different for me! Let me know if you struggle with any of this or if you have other suggestions for starting respectful argumentative discussions on book blogs!

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35 thoughts on “Book bloggers: Are we too nice?

  1. Sammie @ Bookshelves & Biros says:

    This is a great post with some great advice, Emily! I think this also feeds into the blogging echo chamber that you wrote about a little while ago too. Because we book bloggers are ill so nice it takes a lot of confidence to go against the grain with popular books and write negative reviews, which means we very rarely have the opportunity to disagree and engage on discussions of those kinds! I’ll def be taking some of your advice on board. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Krysta says:

    The funny thing is that I use all the rhetorical strategies you say not to use on purpose specifically when I am commenting on book blogs, but at no other point in my life. I find that disagreeing with others even on something as trivial as “This book wasn’t for me” can cause what seems like a mini argument to flare up online. And I’m not here for arguments so I try to head them off. When you write online, it seems so easy for the other person to take your words in the worst possible way by accident. The smiley faces and such let them know I wasn’t saying “I didn’t like this book” in a nasty tone.

    I think maybe we also have to consider the age of some book bloggers. I see rhetorical choices that are common to many students. I’m not trying to say anyone is not a good writer or anything like that, but I think some bloggers are still in the learning process and figuring out how they want to communicate and how they can do that most effectively. People in the learning process are less likely to see the nuances in a conversation. So when I say I didn’t like a book, they take that as “I DIDN’T LIKE THIS TERRIBLE AWFUL NO-GOOD ROTTEN BOOK!” rather than “This book has interesting qualities, but it didn’t follow through.” My “haha’s” and “I think’s” are me given overt signals as to how I hope they respond to my comment–that is, in a friendly manner rather than in a defensive one.

    I will also note that I just got through very politely pointing out why I did not agree with the rhetorical premises of the post someone reblogged and the blogger replied me saying that I should have read other content on her blog to get a fuller picture of her views and otherwise I wouldn’t be jumping to conclusions. I saw that elsewhere on her blog she posted that she loves having respectful dialogues about controversial topics, so I thought we were good here (especially because I wasn’t even responding to the content of the post but commenting on how it falsely assumes some things to set up its arguments), but we weren’t. (I also don’t agree that I should be expected to read all the supplementary materials on her blog to be able to respond to one post.) It’s moments like these that make me not want to comment on blogs if what I want to say is not “I 100% agree with you.” I don’t have time for this kind of silly drama and if I can avoid it by not commenting or by overusing “haha” then that’s what I’m going to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Yes, I’m really glad you brought that up. I agree that the fear of being interpreted as rude is what makes us soften our language, cause misinterpretation is the cause of a lot of internet drama. But I’ve had great discussions with both you and Briana that have been respectful and engaging disagreements, without having to use all the fillers. I wonder if that’s because we know each other enough that it’s ok? I think too much softening can make it sound like there’s no discussion to be had, and those comment threads die out without much fulfillment. There has to be some sort of happy medium, and I want to try to find it. We definitely have!

      Like

      • Krysta says:

        I think it can definitely depend on whom you’re interacting with. I know I am much more careful with my language when I’m engaging with someone who seems younger or who, based on their interactions with others, seem uncertain how to interpret comments online. You seem like a confident individual, though, so I guess I am not to worried about accidentally offending you? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Oh yeah, silliness is always welcome! Humor is a great way to disagree w/o sounding harsh, and Puput actually talks about that in her post. But I wasn’t talking about humor, I was referring to unnecessarily apologetic language while disagreeing 😛

      Like

  3. Briana says:

    I’ve never really had an issue with writing a negative review and getting a bad response from it. Probably because I just have great followers. I know other bloggers have had issues with this, often from a review posted on Goodreads or because they’re a “big” blogger and tons of people follow them. I can imagine that having someone start a fight just because you didn’t love a book they loved can be draining.

    I agree with Krysta, though, in that I often use a lot of markers like emoticons and “I think” in an attempt to clearly signal my friendly intentions online. I’d say I do it mostly on book blogs, as well, but book blogs are mostly where I comment online, so I’m not sure how much differently I would comment in other contexts. I do think there’s something of an unspoken peace pact where, if I disagree with a post, I say so once with all my winky faces and lols, and the blogger responds once to my comment politely, and then we drop it, agreeing forevermore to disagree. Sometimes it seems as if prolonging the conversation is what’s interpreted as being “too negative” or “starting a fight” or whatever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      True! I think it’s unfortunate that those conversations get dropped quickly when there’s interesting discussion to be had. I enjoy longer comment threads and I understand how a lot of people see them as negative – I wish that wasn’t the case.

      Like

      • Krysta says:

        Yes, I often feel like if I respond to the person who disagreed with me, they’re going to see me as argumentative. So I just quietly leave even if we’re technically in the middle of a discussion and I have more to say. I also find that I am less likely to point out obvious flaws in the way they framed the argument. I will stick to more abstract matters in the hopes that the other person will not think I am attacking them, but just engaging with the content of the post. But in real life if someone tried to back up an argument with a fact that was easily disproven or a faulty assumption, I’d certainly call their attention to that.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Well I sometimes think that of other bloggers… but no not really, cos you can never be too nice. I think that’s definitely fair- as a brit I do like politeness, but as a thoroughly opinionated individual, I’m not in favour of being shy when I disagree with something! One of my reasons for starting the blog in the first place was wanting a place to just say my honest opinions- so I won’t shy away from stating my opinions on my own blog- if someone doesn’t like it (and this has happened) they don’t have to read it. And if someone says something I disagree with, I will defend my opinions till the bitter end (unless I’m proved wrong, change my mind or need more time to think about it 😉 ) In comments I have to admit I’d be inclined to soften the blow a bit- because things can come across wrong online- and tempers can run away very fast! Also, I like to be respectful when visiting someone else’s blog. I know (and agree) that the internet is a free-for-all with opinions, but that’s just my way- I wouldn’t want to be rude in someone else’s space (again that’s the British part of me)
    Anyhoo I love this discussion! Personally I think (haha just used I think and a “haha” lol 😉 ) should be free to do whatever they want! I’m happy for people to come on my blog and state their opinions! Heck- I don’t even mind the occasional trolls (I’m actually the worst person to troll cos I get excited that the trolls have managed found me) but if people want to right “hahaha I think I disagree” that’s fine by me too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily | RoseRead says:

      Hahaha, I love your comment about trolls. They haven’t found me yet, but if they ever do, I’m not sure how I would react! “Respectful” is definitely the keyword, but as you said, tempers tend to run higher on the internet where comments can so easily be interpreted as hostile when they’re not. It’s tough out there for a blogger! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  5. thesassygeek says:

    Great post Emily! I agree that we book bloggers can be too nice at times especially when it comes to negative reviews. Me? I’m definitely not afraid to be negative about a book I didn’t enjoy even if it is popular. However, I do find myself trying not to come off too negative when leaving comments because I don’t want people to take them personally which can happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Liam @ Hey Ashers! says:

    This post is fantastic, and I wholeheartedly agree.

    It’s helpful to see the advice listed out; I’m consciously aware of all of them, but nevertheless rely heavily on both #2 and #3 both in my posts and my comments, primarily because I voice a lot of dissenting opinions and don’t want to come across as a grumpy jerk. I tend to fluster and wilt at the first sign of genuine conflict, and go out of my way to avoid it. (I need to get over this habit eventually, especially as someone who gripes about popular books on the Internet. Bah.)

    So, thank you for the reminder! It’s appreciated. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Puput @ Sparkling Letters says:

    Ahh I’m so flattered to partly inspire you to write this post! 😀 Also thanks for linking up, I received a lot of traffics from here 😛

    This is such a relatable post Emily! I’m sure many bloggers will resonate with this because I’ve seen A LOT of people do this (me included). I normally don’t shy away from confrontation. I embrace disagreement and I will bend over backwards to explain myself or settle an argument in real life conversation, but when it comes to blogging it’s just… different. It lacks of nuance and people on the internet get offended all the time. So to me, it doesn’t seem worth it to engage in an argument here. Like you, I just pretend to agree 😂

    I rarely use haha and lol when there’s nothing funny but you totally got me on “I think” and “I feel like” 😂 even worse I sometimes say “I PERSONALLY think” like…. what?! Why do I sound so uncertain?hahaha also busted on using a lot of fillers. I mean, I love to exaggerate so using these adverbs is kind of a habit, but I’m trying to replace the word very+adj with another word that already covers it. Though it’s not so easy because English isn’t my native language so I have to like… think before I choose the words. But these are all great advice that I’m gonna pay attention to the next time I write a post and comment! 😀 and I’m sorry this turned out to be a super long comment hahaha

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Read Diverse Books says:

    You’ve really blown my mind, Emily. ahem 😉

    But this is such a helpful and truthful post! I don’t often use lols or hahas in my reviews, but I have done so in personal posts and book tags. And of course, very often in comments! I am very casual in the comments section. It’s how I naturally write & talk. lol 🙂
    I’ll try to be more conscious about it in my future posts and comments. I probably won’t even notice I”m doin git!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Esther @ Chapter Adventures says:

    Oh no… this is so me! Number 3 hit me hard, okay?! I overuse those words so much. I hate confrontation and I’m really shy, so I always try to be the nicest in comments and reviews alike. The 3 things you mentioned rely on each blogger’s style, clearly, but it’s great advice to keep in mind. It depends on the type of discussion we are having, too. If it’s an argument, it’s very important to remember these. It will keep the comments straightforward, without trying to please the other and simply stating our opinions respectfully.
    I loved this topic, I hadn’t thought of it before despite doing it constantly!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. cw @ readthinkponder says:

    Oh Emily, this is a fantastic discussion! I wish I read it sooner.
    I can definitely empathize with someone’s hesitation to openly disagree with someone over a book, especially if the book is a popular one. I often find myself choosing to simply not leave comments on a glowing review of a book I didn’t like so much. I feel like I’d be a party-pooper or something!

    BUT, you addressed all the issues wonderfully.
    Thinking about it, I unconsciously flower my replies with ‘hehes’ and ‘hahas’ and emojis to soften the tone. (REALLY thinking about it, I do it a lottttttt… but maybe I’m trying to convey how I talk!)

    Liked by 1 person

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