Emotional Power Words

I have read that emotional power words should be used in book blurbs and other marketing material, though their use should not be overdone. These words will be descriptive, so here is a short list of ‘power adjectives’:

harrowing, passionate, terrifying, joyful, entrancing, searing, unforgettable,
coruscating, enchanting, chilling, heartbreaking, heart-rending, pulsating, bewitching, captivating, shocking, endearing, evocative, spell-binding

Words in this category have one thing in common, they boldly tell prospective readers how the book will affect them. At best, this is an educated guess since whoever writes the blurb does not know the readers and cannot know how they will react. But one thing we can be sure of is that not all readers will react to a book in the same way.

In some cases, whoever wrote the blurb will not have read the book, relying instead on a synopsis. Time is money.

Nouns will also be used, of course, but the temptation will always be to qualify them with a suitable adjective, to beef them up. So Agnes Dunwoodie’s bodice-ripper  ‘Sex Before Sunset’ (how do I copyright this title?) isn’t content to be ‘a romp’, it must be ‘a joyous romp’,  ‘a thrilling romp’ or, try this one for size, ‘an irreverent romp’. Whatever the last one means, it scores high on alliteration.

Even where the author of a blurb tries conscientiously to describe the book itself, problems may arise. The novel I am reading now has been described as ‘fast paced’. It isn’t, and that, for me, is one of its attractions.

The use of emotional power words is presumptuous in that they tell the reader how they are expected to react to what they read. How do we deal with this? By treating incoming adjectives with suspicion and checking their baggage very carefully before letting them through customs – because the chances are they’re trying to sneak something past us. That, after all, is what they do.

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