Am I being oversensitive? I’m still smarting from an unprovoked comment posted on my LibraryThing profile page which declared that it’s “like the rest of your site — and especially your reviews — ‘over the top’ – and verbose!”
Over the top? Verbose? Really? For much social media I can see lengthy product reviews or Facebook comments may well be unwelcome, and of course on Twitter such verbosity would be impossible. But on a book-cataloguing and review site, where words are held in high esteem, how can one be so philistine? Especially as the writer — I won’t name and shame him — tells us that “in a former life I was an Assistant headteacher in a local comprehensive school. Now a freelance researcher into the rise and decline of ancient civilizations.”
For an ex-teacher, let alone an ex Assistant Head, to say such a thing makes my blood run cold. His own handful of reviews run from epigrammatic (“44 years old in 2014 – not a lot of use!”) to self-publicising (“I am doing a Masters in Classical Studies and I cannot fault the accuracy and detail …”), but they don’t tell me much about the value or content of the books themselves. It’s unclear who his review comments are aimed at — himself, perhaps? — though it’s crystal clear that my intended audience does not include him.
But his cutting and rather spiteful remark gave me pause. Am I in fact over the top in my statements or way of writing? And above all am I too verbose?
I’ve said elsewhere that I believe that good reviews should mainly educate, enlighten and entertain: this a mantra which, when I google it, seems pretty commonplace, and is close to the Reithian principles of the BBC — to inform, educate and entertain. Reviews based merely on opinions (“Meh” or “Awesome!” for example) only work if you know and agree with the individual making them; reviews that give you a reasoned argument why something may be good, bad or indifferent seem to be much more helpful.
So, if I want to educate or enlighten you about a book or an issue then I need to use words, and often a lot of them. That’s the verbose bit. But as for over the top, could that be my attempt at entertaining? Entertaining: well, that’s certainly a matter of opinion.
However, I’d be willing to consider a path rectifying this supposed fault if most bloggers thought I’d erred on the wrong side of acceptable.