30 comments on “In Defense of “Meh”

  1. I get the idea the author of the other post wants everyone to review the way he/she does. But I agree with you: these statements properly express how you feel about the book and if I am reading the review they won’t leave me with any questions (and if they do…that’s what comments are for). We should distinguish between people who write literary critiques and people who simply review books because it’s fun. If you do the former, I agree, shun these terms, but if it’s the latter…

    • It makes all the difference what type of a reviewer you are. And while I can somewhat appreciate the attempt to raise the bar for expressing ourselves clearly, the tone of this article just rubbed me the wrong way.

  2. I agree. With all of this. I’m tired of being told there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to review. Each person reviews in their own style, and that’s why different blogs attract different followers — we’re not all the same! Bloggers (in general) don’t get paid a penny for any of their reviews and are not “professionals.” Yes, we sometimes get free books, but that’s pretty much the extent of any compensation, and when we do get those books, there is a lot of time/effort/energy that goes into reading and reviewing said book. Most of us do this as a hobby, as a means of sharing our love of books. And I don’t think I have EVER seen any of these statements made in a review without additional explanation. I might see these phrases on their own in brief exchanges on Twitter or in a blog comment, but 1. that is a totally different story, and 2. I still get the gist of what the person means! Reviewing or blogging “tips” can be helpful, especially for people just starting out, but enough with blanket statements about what people are doing “wrong!”

    • Absolutely. If these are his personal pet peeves, well, we’re all entitled to our opinions. But there’s always going to be reviewers out there who you don’t mesh with. So, instead of putting them down, maybe just don’t read their reviews. Simple, no?

  3. I want to stand up and applaud this post Charleen. I first became aware of the article when an author friend admired it, I checked the link and immediately felt defensive. I know I’ve said I want to like this book but…and I know I’ve said meh. I also know I take the time to spell out exactly why I felt that way. But even if I didn’t it’s an opinion and whatever words I use to give an opinion are surely valid. Meh is such a great word like you said, it encompasses a world of feeling in such a short phase. Team Meh all the way!

  4. I think it depends on the style of the review, but people should be able to say what they want. “Meh” does convey a lot in such a simple word, and most people aren’t going to stop there in their opinion, they will elaborate more.

    • Absolutely, there are some reviews where “meh” just wouldn’t fit… but those aren’t the reviewers using the word in the first place. The article just felt very “woe the current state of reviewing,” which I was surprised to see on a site like Book Riot.

  5. Nope. You’re not being unreasonably defensive at all. I’m glad you wrote a counter-post. Every statement he disagrees with is a valid statement (assuming the reviewer expands on them, like almost every reviewer does).

  6. Not unreasonably defensive at all. I actually see good reason for each of these statements in reviews, especially meh! Some books just leave that feeling. Sometimes I can point out why; other times I cannot. I always do my best to expand on it, but I don’t know how effective I truly am. People can probably describe some of my reviews as meh!

    • Heh, good point. Some of mine probably are as well! In the end we’re all going to feel differently about the books we read… sometimes those feelings are easy to define, other times less so.

  7. I won’t go into my thoughts on Book Riot, which are…not very positive. Or at all positive, actually. But I’m with you. A., don’t tell me how to review; I’m not getting paid to do it, and I’ll do it however I please; and B., who the hell are you to put rules on the “right” and “wrong” way to review? I’ve used all of these phrases when reviewing; I’ll use them again. I don’t use them, leave them there, and walk away. I back them up with why-statements. But if I didn’t want to? My prerogative, Book Riot, and who died and made you arbiter of how we’re supposed to review? If someone doesn’t like how I review, I have an awesome solution. DON’T READ MY REVIEWS. Solved it!

    • Yup, easy solution. Normally I enjoy a lot of what Book Riot posts, but this one just had sort of a “bloggers are ruining book reviews” feel about it… or maybe, “lazy bloggers give us serious bloggers a bad name.” I don’t know.

  8. Just read the BookRiot article and mentally giggled at this: But could you possibly describe your feelings in a way that doesn’t sound like you’ve just eaten an entire bucket of chicken and are now struggling to remove ass from couch? [re: "Meh"]

    But what if that’s EXACTLY how the book made me feel? Maybe I just finished gorging myself on trashy/guilty pleasure books and now my brain feels all bloated with cheesy forbidden supernatural romances and giant alien dinosaur-sharks and ripped Johnny Depp-style pirate captains who’ve somehow managed to never get scurvy or smell like they’ve been on a ship for months at a time in all sorts of weather and not exactly the best plumbing system on board…

    At least he seems open to counter-arguments, as far as I’ve seen in the comments section.

    Also, I <3 the Facebook-style "Meh" hand :)

  9. Well I don’t feel the need to read that post – I feel ‘meh’ quite often. I don’t just write meh, but I do tend to keep some things vague. But you know I do it for a reason because I want to get my feelings and thoughts out there without hopefully giving anyone else pre-bias if they decide they still want to read the book. A meh book to me is neither good nor bad, it’s just meh or ok…I have nothing great or damning to say. Because it just failed to impress upon me in anyway. So would that reviewer prefer it if I said it all that way in five sentences versus one meh and a shorter sentence?

    I’m a big hater of long reviews. I see the need of literary reviews and occasionally I’ll read them but almost always AFTER I have already read the book and I want to see whatever other thoughts are out there as compared to my thoughts. When I want that yes I tend to go to the more indepth longer reviews. But those times are rare. Usually I shy away from any review that goes over 600 words.

    Everyone reviews in their own style and I think it’s offensive to put someone else down who has just as much right to put their thoughts on the book out there. We aren’t all literature majors who want to dissect every bit.

    I do what I do for fun – so I’ll keep writing them the way I want…we’re aren’t forcing people to read our reviews. =)

    • For so long, before I started book blogging, I was posting mini-reviews on GR for every book I read. I purposely kept them really brief because those are the reviews I liked to read on the site; when I’m browsing for quick opinions, even a couple paragraphs seems long. So I’d use shorthand phrases like these all the time without going into much detail. I’m sure other people would have preferred I get more specific, but there are plenty of other reviews out there that would be more helpful to them. I’ve always figured, if this is the sort of review I’d want to read, there are probably others out there like me who’ll appreciate them too… I’m not that much of a special snowflake.

      • Heck I hate reading long reviews as well. So you are definitely not alone. I only read long review of those people I trust. I’ve been burned too many times on spoilers.

  10. I agree completely with your response to this article. With nearly every phrase the article criticized, I think all that would be necessary to make that phrase part of a good review is some description of why it was used – and most bloggers give that explanation. I also think you’re right that in the case of ‘meh’, there’s not too much more to say. You might want to mention specific things that were good and specific things that were bad which balanced out to leave you feeling ‘meh’ about a book, but in some cases, it just means the book didn’t resonate with you and wasn’t anything special. And if that’s the case, ‘meh’ can say it all.

    • That’s usually when I personally use “meh,” when the book just doesn’t make me feel anything one way or the other. Some good and some bad balancing out to just okay is a lot easier to discuss than a complete lack of any real response.

  11. That’s some snarky article =/ And “meh” perfectly expresses feelings towards a book! Like you said, an onomatopoeia, so most of us understand what it conveys, regardless where we’re from. Besides, these phrases tend to be an introduction to our explanations, not reviews in their entirety. Meh.

    • I think that’s why the dismissal of this phrase bothers me more than the others, even though it’s the most vague. Because it’s the one where I’d be the least likely to actually have more to say. I mean, I can try, but my words are going to be about as lackluster as my feelings. Sometimes it’s just better to just leave it at “meh.”

  12. I skipped reading the article — not out of laziness, I just think it would annoy me. It sounds tremendously patronizing! And yes, I think there is a definite place for “meh” in our world. It conveys so much with so little.

    • I think there is a valid point buried somewhere in that article about expressing our thoughts as clearly as possible rather than assuming we’ll be understood… but it’s overshadowed by all the judginess.

  13. I read an article the other day about internet speak and how it can portray how you feel better than actually using correct language, like saying “I can’t even” just makes sense in some contexts. I feel the same way about “meh” because sometimes you just don’t feel a book and there’s not a huge explanation for it. I don’t want to live in a world where “meh” is not acceptable!! =) Also, not liking a book because you can’t connect with characters is a personal thing, if you don’t like the characters you can’t FORCE yourself to like a book. Maybe they’re are overused phrases in reviews but he should just get over it!

    • I think of internet-speak as being similar to a cultural dialect. There are definitely instances in which our idioms seem more accurate than using other words… but only if we all share that language.

  14. I sooooo agree. I think I’ve actually written a review that was basically “Meh” or “Ehh” or “*shrug* with a little bit of follow-up. Those are good words to sum up how indifferent you felt towards a book.

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