Writing Disorders

— There are eight common writing disorders afflicting music critics. Every critic featured on RipFork is diagnosed with up to three. Treatment starts with awareness.

 

DETACHMENT SYNDROME

WHAT IT IS:
A writing disorder marked by persistent refusal to express personal thoughts as personal thoughts. Desire for journalistic credential or a lingering love of the persuasive essay format can drive a writer to adopt the second- and third-person perspective. Occasionally patients will employ the first-person plural to force agreement with an audience.

SYMPTOMS:
Words and phrases like “you,” “we,” and “the listener” replace the first-person “I,” “me,” or “my.”

EXAMPLES:

“You end up needing a bit of palette cleanser in between tracks” – Mary Bellamy

“We’re not asking for Wilde-esque musings here” – Camilla Pia

“motifs both noticeably similar and subtly familiar to carry the listener” – Mike Diver

TREATMENT:
Write an opinion like an opinion.

AMBIGUITY SICKNESS

WHAT IT IS:
Exhibiting as vague prose and blanket statements, Ambiguity Sickness is symptomatic of a writer’s inability to write substantive arguments. Many music writers try to make ordinary or obvious points sound insightful as a way of seeking distinction in a field that rarely yields more than a few hundred Twitter followers.

SYMPTOMS:
In addition to vague nouns built from adjectives, the phrases “a kind of,” “a sense of,” or “a sort of” are common signs of Ambiguity Sickness.

EXAMPLES:

“the triumph of essence over absence” – Sam Donsky

“a real sense of play and exploration” – Patrick Sisson

“it also boasts an immediacy and pop smarts” – Ian Cohen

TREATMENT:
Don’t force ideas to be profound.

IDEA FEVER

WHAT IT IS:
A debilitating condition caused by refusal to edit. Comprehension is hampered by long, complex sentences that often bear only tenuous connection to the featured band or album. Secondary ideas eclipse the thrust of the subject.

SYMPTOMS:
Reviews over 800 words or multiple sentences over 40 words are telltale signs of idea fever. A writer may reference dozens of other names before mentioning the band. Tangential comparisons to ‘80s TV shows or iTunes Celebrity Playlist can singularly confirm a diagnosis.

EXAMPLES:

“Yet this disc does have each one of its elder siblings’ charms: a gentle buildup and easy finish, extended trance-like passages, spongy rhythms, seemingly incongruent tracks melded with ease and restraint, almost subliminally tense transitions from menace to bliss, and even some whispered vocals, though the inner-growth monologue on Yukihiro Fukutomi’s emotive piano-house track “Open Our Eyes” is a bit much.” – Andy Kellman

TREATMENT: Edit.

INFECTIOUS PUNCTUATION

WHAT IT IS:
A common sickness affecting college students, but particularly virulent in music critics. The profuse punctuation used to join words or create asides impedes sentence flow. A hyphen count higher than one every 15 words can also boost the risk of Toxic Tedium.

SYMPTOMS:
Excessive hyphenation or liberal use of double dashes and parentheses. Asides within asides or chains of hyphenated words meant as adjectives are signs of an acute infection.

EXAMPLES:

“The Brooklyn-based four-piece’s on-paper purveyance of -pop” – Mike Diver

“put together a history-lesson-cum-slow-burn showcase, rather than a cutesy game of connect-the-dots” – Jess Harvell

“The same influence can also be heard (as, indeed, is acknowledged by the band in the album’s accompanying press information) in forthcoming single Light It Up.” – Jude Clarke

TREATMENT:
Rewrite sentences, condense ideas, or use a thesaurus to find other words.

JARGON PALSY

WHAT IT IS:
A stiffening of style caused by bookish words and phrases describing something meant to be enjoyed. Jargon Palsy is often diagnosed in conjunction with Infectious Punctuation and Ambiguity Sickness.

SYMPTOMS:
Words like “esque” and “quasi” are telltale symptoms of the disorder, as well as invented subgenres that make listening to music sound like surgery. The author may go so far as to plot music along line graphs or Venn diagrams.

EXAMPLES:

“Christian hymn-aping synth music masquerading as dream-pop or screen-gaze” – John Doran

“Imagine an axis where one pole is labeled ‘Structure’ and the other is labeled ‘Atmosphere,’” – Evan Borgia

TREATMENT:
Write like a fan.

PURPLE HEMORRHAGE

WHAT IT IS:
A crippling illness characterized by flowery words and phrases used to describe music. Similar to Jargon Palsy, Purple Hemorrhage is a disorder of excessive language. Writers attempting to sound poetic while conceptualizing sounds with words are most at risk.

SYMPTOMS:
Metered descriptions, heavy use of adjectives, and visual metaphors describing sounds are common signs. Needless adverbs often contribute to the purple prose.

EXAMPLES:

“the emboldened, lolloping sound that curves and swoops, as if exploring the contours of another’s body with slow, febrile urgency, before galloping away in shimmering cymbals” – Laura Snapes

“The gathering chaos and tumbling beat wrapped around a barbed bassline on opening greeter “Radio Milk: How Can You Stand It” reverberates a decided 1970s sonic warp, analog thick with vinyl width” – Raoul Hernandez

TREATMENT:
Try writing poetry instead.

SCORN DISEASE

WHAT IT IS:
A patronizing or hostile tone taken by a typist toward those who write and record music. Co-morbidity with Detachment Syndrome is common. An opinion writer is more likely to write scurrilous things about artists if he doesn’t have to own up to them.

SYMPTOMS:
In addition to the haughty tone, derisive references to teenagers and off-campus radio are common. So are allegations of bands ripping off other bands. Comparisons to “Loveless” or New Order usually point to scorn disorder.

EXAMPLES:

“Naming individual tracks and pinpointing their flaws is a foregone luxury” – Ian Roullier

“one radio-ready nugget of pop-rubbish after another” – Andrew Burgess

TREATMENT:
Try writing, recording, and performing something in front of an audience sometime.

TOXIC TEDIUM

WHAT IT IS:
Writing failure — a terminal illness caused by a combination of diseases afflicting music critics. Co-morbidity of Jargon Palsy and Idea Fever increases the chances of Toxic Tedium tenfold. Levels of readability and interest fall to such low levels that readers are likely to depart long before finishing.

SYMPTOMS:
Multiple disorders interact to produce a catastrophically boring result. The writer exhibits little if any desire to engage an audience.

KNOWN CARRIERS:
Stephen Deusner, Jonathan Dean, Stuart Berman, Elliott Sharp

TREATMENT:
Try writing for readers, not just yourself.