Uniquely Compelling and Poignant

Rose Fox -- November 8th, 2013

poignantPW‘s reviews director has issued a ban on the words compellingunique, and poignant in our reviews. When I wrote to my reviewers asking them to avoid these overused terms, they had some creative replies.

Can we portmanteau our way out of this? I’d like to describe a book as “poignelling.” Or maybe “compique.”

I replied that “Poignelling” sounds like the last name of an obscure 1930s politician. Vote Poignelling! Another reviewer suggested that “poignelling” would be the gerund of “poignell”: to speak movingly, at the top of your lungs. A third put in a vote for “unipellant.”

Just replace the word with the definition. “The author rendered the main character’s loss in a poignant manner.” becomes “The author rendered the main character’s loss in a manner painfully sharp to the emotions or senses.”

Alas, this technique would be incompatible with PW review length limits.

Maybe I’ll just switch to various smiley faces.

That sounds much more efficient!

One reviewer asked plaintively whether we could supply a list of substitutes. We could–but then everyone would use them and we’d have to issue another ban three months down the road. It makes much more sense to let each reviewer find their own gripping, unusual, and vibrant (or fascinating, standout, and heartstring-tugging) alternatives.

PW reviewers Adam Lipkin, Steven H Silver, Stefan Dziemanowicz, Michael Levy, and Vicki Borah Bloom contributed their wit and wisdom to this post.

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