Link to Ben Ratliff's Review of Scream by Chris CornellArtist: Chris Cornell

Album: Scream

Reviewer: Ben Ratliff

Blender, 2009

Writing Disorders: Infectious Punctuation, Jargon Palsy







Number of Hyphenated Words: 10

Hyphen Foul: “board-certified cheese-ball rock-guitar”

Stuffiest Sentence: “Their collaboration suggests a nice philosophical dissonance, but only in theory”




This review is unreadable, Ben. Which is a shame, because essentially what you’re writing here is copy. In case you don’t know what that is, copy is a short way — usually less than 200 words — to convey or promote something to the public. You’ve got the length down pat. But copy is also designed to be snappy, succinct, and most of all easy to understand.

I’ll let your copy speak for itself.

“a Vegas-y shpritz of synth orchestras, mock-Asiatic wails and sitars, board-certified cheese-ball rock-guitar solos ripping off Journey and U2″

Let’s try something fun, Ben. Let’s picture for a moment that the Heinz Company hires you to write copy about how good their ketchup tastes with French fries. Here’s that I imagine you’d come up with.

“The salubriousness is obfuscated by the vinegar-y undertones and faux-fire-engine-red pigmentation lifted from the annals of Hunts, yet one can’t help but marvel at the symbiosis present in the union with the common fried tuber of the Solanum tuberosum.”

And then you’d get fired because no one outside of respected botanical or linguistic circles would know what the hell you were talking about. It’s clear you’d never make it far writing this stuff for any outlet other than a music zine. What I’m struggling to understand is how your style is near universally-embraced, even elevated, when it comes to writing about music.

Also, why is it that you feel comfortable writing that a songwriter wrote “tragically clumsy lyrics” when you wrote such jargon yourself?

There are a number of cures to your affliction, Ben. Here’s a good way to start. Stop using hyphenated words so much to convey meaning. Let’s go back to that horrible sentence fragment I quoted earlier.

“a Vegas-y shpritz of synth orchestras, mock-Asiatic wails and sitars, board-certified cheese-ball rock-guitar solos ripping off Journey and U2″

Now, watch what happens when I clear the sentence of hyphenated words:

“synth orchestras, wailing sitars, and guitar solos ripping off Journey and U2.”

See, by cutting out hyphenated words that A) make no sense, and B) make the review impossible to read, you give your potential audience a much-needed boost!

I look forward to reading your future work that incorporates these suggestions, Ben. And like any good critic, I’ll still be able to find plenty to criticize.