India Uncut

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

How to write bad reviews

The easiest way out: rely on puns. Jai illustrates this with an example drawn from the (no doubt illustrious) work of Sabina Sehgal Saikia.

Indian journalism is too reliant on puns and wordplay, especially for headlines, and the sports page of the Times of India often reads like an immature college rag. (That's just the headlines; you read the stories and it sounds like a pre-school rag.) It's actually rude to the reader to use puns, because you want to make it as easy for him as possible to get a gist of what a piece is about with the headline, and wordplay invariably forces readers to read it twice. Bad manners.

My rule of thumb while writing anything: my writing should not draw attention to itself, and the content of what I'm saying is all that the reader should notice. (If it's not engrossing enough, of course, that's my fault.) Wordplay is simply a way of saying, "Oh, look how smart I am." Only your friends will indulge you when you do that, as would happen if you actually said it aloud.

Needless to say, I make an exception for PJs, like this one. The greatest PJs often have the worst puns, and I entirely support that. Not in serious writing, though.

As for what makes a good review, Chandrahas's work illustrates that beautifully. Thankfully, he has recovered from a mysterious ailment, and has a light post on the subject. I didn't find talk of bequeathing things to people remotely funny yesterday, but now that all is well, I think I'll cheerfully ask for the film books now. (Oops, it seems many claimants already exist!)
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