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?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- “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!