What Is a Platitude? Definition & 10+ Examples

Have you ever found yourself rolling your eyes at a clichéd phrase, feeling like you’ve heard it a million times before? If so, you’ve likely encountered a platitude.

Platitudes are overused, trite statements that convey a sentiment or offer advice, but have lost their impact due to their familiarity and frequency of use. From clichéd life advice to political slogans and spiritual wisdom, platitudes come in all shapes and sizes.

Understanding the definition and examples of platitudes can be both entertaining and enlightening. This article will further discuss the concept of platitudes, discovering common sayings that are often repeated without much thought, yet still find their way into everyday conversations.

Exploring these well-worn phrases will help to highlight their features and prevalence while providing a wider grasp of how they can impact the effectiveness of communication in various scenarios.

Let’s get started:

Table of Contents

What Is a Platitude?

A platitude is an overused statement or remark that may have initially had depth and meaning but has become clichéd and mundane due to frequent repetition.

Dictionary Definition

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a platitude is defined as “a banal, trite or stale remark.” In essence, it is an expression that has lost its impact and originality due to overuse.

Platitudes may be expressed with good intentions, but they generally lack depth and provide little consolation or insight to the person receiving them.

Etymology and Origin

Platitude traces its roots back to the French and Latin languages. The word itself comes from the French term “plat,” which means “flat.” It is derived from the Latin word “plattus,” which also translates to “flat.” The connection between flatness and platitudes is evident as these expressions are viewed as lacking depth and substance.

Famous Ancient Examples

Throughout history, many well-known philosophers, writers, and thinkers have used platitudes in their work. Some ancient examples of platitudes include:

  • “All is fair in love and war.” — John Lyly, in his 1578 work Euphues.
  • “To err is human, to forgive divine.” — Alexander Pope, in his 1711 poem An Essay on Criticism.
  • “A penny saved is a penny earned.” — Benjamin Franklin, in his 1737 book Poor Richard’s Almanack.

These examples demonstrate that the use of platitudes has been prevalent throughout history, and they have been employed by even the most respected individuals in various fields.

Key Characteristics of Platitudes

Triteness: The Feeling of Déjà Vu

Platitudes often evoke a feeling of déjà vu because they lack originality and convey well-worn ideas. It is this familiarity that can make them appear comforting, even though they may not offer much substance.

Common phrases such as “everything happens for a reason” and “time heals all wounds” are examples of trite statements that have lost their impact through overuse.

The Power of General Applicability

One of the defining characteristics of platitudes is their power of general applicability. They often appear to be relevant to a wide range of situations, which makes them attractive as a quick and easy response.

However, this versatility can also be their downfall, as it can lead to a lack of depth when addressing specific issues. In other words, platitudes can sound wise, but their broad applicability often means they offer little in the way of targeted guidance or solutions.

Oversimplifying the Complex: When One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Platitudes can sometimes oversimplify complex issues by suggesting that a particular situation can be easily distilled into a basic concept, even when deeper analysis is required.

 "If you want something done right, do it yourself." 

For instance, the platitude above might encourage self-reliance, but it can also undermine the value of teamwork and collaboration in problem-solving. Such oversimplification can lead to misguided decisions or reinforce unhelpful thinking.

Purpose and Functions of Platitudes

Platitudes may seem unoriginal and overused, but they serve important functions in everyday communication. This section delves into the ways platitudes contribute to conversation and social connections:

Provides Comfort in Familiarity

One reason platitudes persist in language is because they bring a sense of familiarity and comfort. When people face difficult situations or emotions, hearing familiar expressions can alleviate stress and anxiety.

Platitudes offer concise, well-known wisdom that helps individuals find solace and reassurance in trying times.

A Social Glue

In addition to providing comfort, platitudes can act as social glue, connecting people with a common shared understanding. Using these expressions can help maintain polite and respectful interactions even when individuals may not know each other well.

Platitudes foster a sense of unity and shared experience by conveying common values and ideas through these standardized phrases.

A Conversation Filler

Platitudes also serve as conversation fillers. Small talk and casual conversation often require short, familiar phrases to fill gaps, ease tension, or transition between topics. Platitudes act as convenient, recognizable statements that maintain the flow of conversation without the need for deeper discussion.

Through the functions above, these seemingly inconsequential phrases often bear more significance than immediately apparent.

Expert Advice: Use platitudes wisely.

Types of Platitudes

Platitudes can be found in various aspects of life, ranging from moral advice to political statements. Each category below demonstrates how platitudes can either provide insight or simply perpetuate clichéd thinking.

Moral Platitudes: Timeless Wisdom or Worn-Out Advice?

Moral platitudes are phrases often used to impart wisdom or advice regarding one’s actions or behavior. While some might consider them timeless truths, others criticize them as superficial or overused.

Such platitudes can sometimes be helpful, but they may also lack nuance or context, leading to a simplistic understanding of moral issues.

Self-Help Platitudes: Uplifting or Cringe-Worthy?

The realm of self-help is rife with platitudes. They often serve as motivational or inspirational messages, but their impact can vary greatly depending on the individual.

While some people may find these expressions uplifting, others may view them as shallow or ineffective in promoting lasting personal growth.

Political Platitudes: Uniting or Divisive?

Political platitudes can be found across various ideologies, with politicians using them to convey their stance on a particular issue or to appeal to voters.

Although these statements might succeed in rallying supporters, they can also be criticized as overly simplistic or meaningless, failing to engage in deeper political discourse.

Spiritual Platitudes: Profound or Predictable?

In the realm of spirituality, platitudes often serve as expressions of faith or contemplation.

While these phrases can be comforting for some, they can also be seen as trite or devoid of true spiritual insight, depending on the person’s beliefs and experiences.

Examples of Traditional Platitudes

Platitudes are often well-intentioned phrases, but they can be clichéd or oversimplified, rendering them ineffective or unhelpful. This section lists examples of traditional platitudes in various categories, such as life, love, and inspiration.

Life Platitudes

These platitudes relate to general life principles and experiences, with the aim of offering wisdom or guidance. Common life platitudes include:

  • “Patience is a virtue.”
  • “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

Love Platitudes

Love platitudes are often used to give advice or console someone about matters of the heart. Some examples of love-related platitudes are:

  • “Love is blind.”
  • “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Inspirational Platitudes

Inspirational platitudes are designed to uplift and motivate, but their overuse can diminish their message. Here are a few examples:

  • “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
  • “Persistence pays off.”
  • “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.”

Examples of Platitudes

In Everyday Life

In daily life, people often use platitudes to offer comfort or advice. They can appear in casual conversations, social media posts, or even advertising slogans. These trite statements are easily recognized and can sometimes come across as insincere or cliché:

  • “Just be yourself.”
  • “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
  • “Time heals all wounds.”
  • “Patience is a virtue.”
  • “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

In Daily Conversation

Platitudes can also surface in everyday conversations, often used as filler or to avoid elaborating on a subject:

  • “It is what it is.”
  • “Better late than never.”
  • “Actions speak louder than words.”

In Love and Relationships

Love platitudes are often used to give advice or console someone about matters of the heart. Some examples of love-related platitudes are:

  • “Love conquers all.”
  • “Opposites attract.”
  • “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
  • “Love is blind.”
  • “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

In Success and Motivation

Inspirational platitudes are designed to uplift and motivate, but their overuse can diminish their message. Here are a few examples:

  • “Hard work pays off.”
  • “You can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
  • “Failure is not an option.”
  • “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
  • “Persistence pays off.”
  • “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.”

In Politics

Politicians may use platitudes either to appeal to a wide range of voters or to avoid addressing specific issues:

  • “Change is coming.”
  • “Stronger together.”
  • “Standing up for the workers.”

In Literature and Media

Platitudes can be found in various forms of literature and media to convey a sentiment or strengthen a point:

  • “All’s well that ends well.”
  • “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
  • “Beauty is only skin deep.”

In Pop Culture

Even pop culture contains its share of platitudes as they resonate with a broad audience:

  • “Follow your dreams.”
  • “Home is where the heart is.”
  • “Be yourself.”
  • “Carpe diem.”
  • You can’t always get what you want.
  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

These examples of platitudes serve as a reminder that while the intention behind them might be positive, a more personalized approach might be more effective in conveying empathy or encouragement.

Positive Impact of Platitudes

Platitudes, despite their overused and clichéd nature, can have a positive impact on people’s lives.

It Fosters Unity and Belonging

One significant benefit of platitudes is their ability to create a sense of belonging and unity among individuals in groups or communities. These simple expressions communicate shared values, insights, or morals that can help strengthen social bonds.

It Offers Emotional Comfort and Timeless Wisdom

Furthermore, platitudes can provide an emotional anchor for those facing challenging situations. Their familiarity offers comfort and reassurance, as well as a reminder of common wisdom that has been passed down through generations. This can be particularly helpful when people feel overwhelmed or uncertain, as platitudes can help them find solace in time-tested guidance.

It Reinforces Shared Principles

In some instances, platitudes can serve as powerful reminders of shared values and aspirations. Consider the following example:

  • “Practice makes perfect.”
  • “Early bird gets the worm.”
  • “Actions speak louder than words.”
  • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
  • “Thats just the way the cookie crumbles.”
  • “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
  • “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

While these phrases may be cliché, they still reinforce important principles such as perseverance, honesty, and the importance of taking action. By stating these values directly, platitudes can encourage reflection and help people maintain focus on their goals.

It Bridges Multicultural Divides

Lastly, platitudes can act as a helpful means of communication in multilingual and multicultural settings. As many platitudes express universal truths or shared experiences, they can help bridge language and cultural gaps by conveying messages that might otherwise be lost in translation.

Negative Impact of Platitudes

Platitudes, despite their widespread use, can have a detrimental effect in various contexts due to their dull, insipid, and unoriginal nature. In this section, we explore the negative impact of platitudes in communication, inspirational material, and debates and discussions.

In Communication

Platitudes can hinder effective communication as they often convey empty and ambiguous messages.

When people use clichés or trite sayings, they lack the insight and thoughtfulness required to address the specific needs of the listener. They may even come across as insincere, giving the impression they’re not genuinely engaged in the interaction.

Consequently, communication becomes superficial and devoid of value, leading to feelings of frustration and preventing the establishment of genuine connections.

In Certain Circumstances

In some situations, using platitudes may be inappropriate. When faced with complex emotions or challenging life events, a person may require empathy and understanding rather than a simple, generalized statement.

In these cases, platitudes may serve to trivialize their experiences, thereby causing more harm than good. This can create a sense of misunderstanding or even dismissal, as recipients might feel that their feelings or concerns are not being taken seriously.

In Personal Life

Another issue with platitudes is their potential to perpetuate stereotypes. By relying on generalities, platitudes may inadvertently reinforce assumptions about people’s experiences and emotions, which can be especially problematic when considering differences based on:

  • Culture
  • Race
  • Gender

Excessive use can also hinder personal growth and self-awareness. Over-relying on clichéd sayings to cope with difficult situations can prevent individuals from truly processing and understanding their emotions and experiences.

In Inspirational Material

When it comes to inspirational or self-help material, originality and depth play a crucial role in maintaining the reader’s interest and motivation.

Platitudes, with their overused nature, appear as insipid and silly, undermining the material’s intended purpose. Instead of offering meaningful advice or guidance, platitudes leave readers feeling disengaged and disappointed.

In Debates and Discussions

Debates and discussions require well-thought-out arguments and substantiated claims to promote a healthy exchange of ideas. However, the use of platitudes in such settings leads to unproductive and shallow dialogues.

The absence of insightful and relevant information weakens the credibility of the speaker, hindering meaningful engagement within the discussion.

Platitude in Action: In a debate about a complex social issue, when a person resorts to platitudes, the conversation is likely to stall, preventing the exploration and understanding of different perspectives. This lack of depth can make it difficult for participants to arrive at a consensus or learn something valuable from the exchange.

These phrases, while often well-intended, have become so commonplace that they no longer elicit the desired effect or provide meaningful insight.

Knowing When to Use Platitudes

Understanding when to use platitudes and when to avoid them is key to finding the right balance. While it’s important to recognize that they can be effective in some circumstances, it’s equally essential to avoid overusing them, as they can become less impactful and potentially harmful when used without thought.

Here are some guidelines to consider:

  1. Choose wisely: Be selective about which platitudes you use, making sure the message is relevant and applicable to the situation.
  2. Be genuine: Platitudes are more effective when they come from a place of genuine care and understanding.
  3. Modify when necessary: Some platitudes may resonate better if they are adjusted to better fit the context.
  4. Avoid in sensitive situations: When dealing with complex emotions or delicate topics, refrain from using platitudes that may trivialize or dismiss someone’s experiences.

Old and Modern Usage of Platitudes

Platitudes, which can be defined as overused or clichéd statements, have been present in both old and modern forms of communication. They were originally used as a means to convey widely accepted truths or advice.

Platitudes Use and Human Connection

The prevalence of platitudes can be partly attributed to the way people use language to establish connections or shared understanding. This widespread usage can be seen in various forms including literature, speeches, and everyday conversations.

Historical Context of Platitudes

In the past, platitudes were common in classic literature and religious texts, where they provided moral guidance, and today they continue to be a familiar part of our language. Some examples of age-old platitudes include:

  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
  • “Laughter is the best medicine.”

Platitudes in Modern Media

The modern usage of platitudes has evolved, and they are now often found in slogans, motivational quotes, and even social media posts. They can be beneficial in certain contexts, providing succinct and easily digestible messages when appropriate.

Example: Brands may use catchy platitudes like “Just do it” (Nike) or “Think Different” (Apple) to effectively communicate their values and goals.

Shallow Expressions

On the other hand, platitudes can also be seen as shallow or trite, especially when they are used in a disingenuous or superficial manner.

It is essential to recognize the impact of platitudes on communication, as their usage can vary from being helpful and memorable to overly simplistic and lacking in value.

Platitudes Around the Globe: Cultural Perspectives

Platitudes can be found in every corner of the world. These common expressions often convey a sense of wisdom or shared cultural values, even if their meaning has become diluted over time.

Cultural Diversity of Platitudes

Platitudes can take on numerous forms depending on the culture and language from which they arise.

For instance, English-speaking countries often have aphorisms like “Birds of a feather flock together,” while Spanish-speaking countries might rely on a phrase like “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres” (“Tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are”) to communicate a similar sentiment.

Other examples of platitudes across cultures include:

  • Chinese: 别出心裁 (bié chū xīn cái) — “Out of the ordinary” or “unique.”
  • Russian: Век живи – век учись (vek zhivi – vek uchis’) — “Live for a century, learn for a century.”
  • Hindi: अन्त भला सो भला (ant bhala so bhala) — “All’s well that ends well.”

Time-Traveling Platitudes: Historical Variations

Platitudes evolve over time, reflecting the cultural and historical context of their origins.

Example: Ancient proverbs like “A stitch in time saves nine” may not resonate as much in modern times, but they still carry an inherent wisdom that can be understood by contemporary audiences.

Similarly, phrases that were once considered novel or insightful may transform into platitudes as their usage becomes more widespread and repetitive. Historically, either religion or folklore played a significant role in the formation of platitudes, which continue to shape the rhetoric used in everyday speech today.

Cultural Translation Challenges

While some platitudes may resonate globally, others are rooted so deeply within a specific culture that they become challenging to translate or communicate accurately.

In such cases, the meaning can easily be lost or misinterpreted when shared with people from different backgrounds or languages. This may result in misunderstandings, confusion or even offense.

Example: A popular Russian proverb states, “Не режь сук, на котором сидишь” (ne rezh’ suk, na kotorom sidish’), which roughly translates to “Don’t saw the branch you’re sitting on.”

However, without the proper cultural context, this phrase might leave non-Russian speakers puzzled, highlighting the importance of being mindful when sharing platitudes across linguistic and cultural boundaries.

Critiques and Counterarguments of Using Platitudes

Downside: Superficial and Potentially Harmful

Platitudes are often criticized for being generic and superficial. Detractors argue that these trite expressions lack depth and can be ineffective or even harmful in certain situations. Some say that relying on platitudes can suppress creativity and prevent people from addressing complex issues.

Furthermore, using platitudes in sensitive situations may cause recipients to feel invalidated or dismissed.

Simplicity Speaks Volumes Sometimes

Despite their negative reputation, platitudes do have some value. Advocates claim that these simple phrases can provide comfort, encouragement, or a sense of connection with others who have experienced similar hardships.

In certain scenarios, a well-placed platitude can be exactly what someone needs to hear, especially if it’s coming from someone who genuinely cares.

Debate and Platitude Usage

In debates, the use of platitudes can be a double-edged sword.

  • On one hand, they provide speakers with easy-to-remember phrases that can resonate with audiences.
  • On the other hand, relying on platitudes can detract from the substance of an argument and make it seem shallow or insincere.

Platitudes can help in creating an initial connection with the audience. They tap into shared values, beliefs, or experiences, thus fostering a sense of familiarity and rapport.

Example: A politician might evoke the importance of family or the nation’s unity to rally support.

However, overreliance on platitudes can backfire, especially when the audience recognizes that such expressions lack nuance and depth.

"Honesty is the best policy."

Consider the statement above. While it conveys an essential truth, it may be perceived as oversimplistic when applied to complex issues, such as geopolitical matters or intercultural negotiations.

To navigate the delicate balance between persuasive rhetoric and meaningful content, debaters should consider the following strategies:

  1. Contextualize: Use platitudes sparingly and only when relevant to the topic at hand. Ensure that they serve as a starting point for a more in-depth discussion.
  2. Substantiate: Support platitudes with reasoned arguments, empirical evidence, or real-world examples to demonstrate their applicability to the issue being debated.
  3. Personalize: Rely on personal experiences or stories to humanize and strengthen your position, instead of resorting to clichés.

By thoughtfully integrating platitudes into their arguments, speakers can enhance their persuasiveness while maintaining the integrity of their message.

Escaping Platitudes: Tips for Originality

In a world inundated with clichés and superficial platitudes, it is essential to focus on creating more insightful and original statements. This section aims to provide some tips and ideas on how to achieve this.

Tip 1: Choose Fresh Phrasing

Firstly, it is important to avoid overused phrases and idioms. These often lose their impact as they become more familiar and may even irritate the reader or listener. Instead, try to find new and fresh ways to express your ideas.

Example: Instead of saying “Time heals all wounds,” you could say, “As the days pass, pain and hurt slowly fades.”

Tip 2: Be Specific and Concrete

Being specific and concrete in your descriptions can also make a statement more insightful. Rather than making vague generalizations or resorting to clichés, focus on detailing a particular aspect or example. This will help to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind and convey more meaning.

Tip 3: Emphasize Your Unique Voice

Another key aspect of crafting original statements is to use your unique voice and perspective. Do not be afraid to inject your personal experiences, thoughts, or emotions into your writing. This will make your statements more relatable and engaging, and less likely to be dismissed as platitudes.

Tip 4: Utilize Effective Formatting

Moreover, consider utilizing the following formatting tools to enhance the readability of your writing and digest essential information:

  • Bullet points: Use bullet points to list essential points or ideas. This format helps break large chunks of text and makes it easier to skim through.
  • Tables: Present data or comparatives using tables. Tables can effectively display information that may otherwise be difficult to grasp in a text format.
  • Subheadings: Organize your writing with subheadings. These help categorize your points and provide structure to your text.

Reframing and Revitalizing Platitudes

One way to make platitudes more meaningful and engaging is by reframing and revitalizing them. Instead of simply repeating clichés, try presenting platitudinal phrases in a fresh and significant manner:

Adapt to Context and Audience

First, consider the context in which the platitude is being used. Be aware that platitudes may have a different impact on different people, so it is essential to adapt the message to the situation and audience.

Example: When discussing a difficult situation, replace a statement such as “it is what it is” with a more supportive and empathetic phrase like “I understand how you feel, and it’s okay to experience these emotions.”

Incorporate Creative Analogies

Another technique to revitalize a platitude is by incorporating nice and creative analogies or metaphors. Doing so can energize the platitude and provide a more memorable and impactful message.

Example: Think of comparing life’s challenges to climbing a mountain or navigating through rough seas, rather than simply saying “life is tough.”

Genuine Connections: Avoiding Platitudinizing

Moreover, it is important to avoid platitudinizing while communicating with others. Instead of relying on clichés, try to focus on genuine connections and feelings. Here are some tips to prevent excessive use of platitudes:

  • Practice active listening and engage in meaningful conversations.
  • Ask open-ended questions to encourage deeper discussions.
  • Acknowledge people’s experiences and feelings instead of resorting to cliches.
  • Be mindful and present during conversations.

By employing these strategies, platitudes can be reframed and revitalized, turning them into more powerful and effective expressions that truly connect with others.

Platitude: Related Terms and Concepts

The Overused Expression Connection

A platitude is often closely associated with clichés, which are another type of overused expression. Clichés lose their original meaning and impact due to overuse, leading to a sense of predictable and unimaginative language.

While phrases might originate in a creative or insightful context, frequent repetition makes them trite and flat.

Platitudinarian Profile

Platitudinarian is a term used to describe an individual who is prone to using platitudes, often relying on them as the primary means of communicating their thoughts.

These individuals might be perceived as lacking originality and depth in their conversations, leaning heavily on clichés and platitudinous statements instead of offering unique insights.

Proverbs vs. Platitudes

A proverb is a short, popular saying that typically offers wisdom, advice, or recommendations on best practices. Although proverbs can become overused like clichés, the main distinction is that most proverbs tend to provoke reflection and insight, while platitudes are generally seen as empty and trivial.

Platitudinous Impact

When someone is described as being platitudinous, it implies that their speech or writing is filled with platitudes, giving the impression of a lack of originality or depth. This can be particularly annoying to listeners or readers who are seeking insightful and engaging content, as they might perceive a platitudinous speaker as offering nothing fresh or compelling.

Tone and Platitudes

Regarding tone, an excess of platitudinous language can lead to a sense of “flatness” in conversation or writing. It diminishes the sense of novelty, excitement, and interest that might otherwise accompany a topic.

Solution: Elevate and Enhance the Conversation

Overuse of platitudes can prevent meaningful engagement and even take away from the fun of exchanging ideas. A fresh, unique, and interesting conversation is likely to involve innovative language and creative expressions, further enhancing the overall enjoyment of those involved.

Pro Tip: It is important to strive for originality and avoid relying on clichéd expressions to maintain an engaging and dynamic conversation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are platitudes used?

Platitudes are used as an attempt to provide solace or support without engaging in deeper conversation or understanding of the situation.

Can platitudes be harmful?

Yes, they can be perceived as dismissive or superficial, hence unintentionally causing harm by invalidating the recipient’s feelings.

Are there any alternatives to using platitudes?

Yes, asking open-ended questions or genuinely engaging in conversation allows for more meaningful interaction and support.

How do platitudes function in language?

Platitudes often serve as conversational shortcuts or placeholders, allowing speakers to relay advice or comfort quickly.


As we wrap up our platitude-infused journey, it’s worth reflecting on the role they play in our lives. From fostering unity and offering comfort to preserving timeless wisdom and bridging cultural divides, platitudes are more than just empty clichés. They carry the weight of generations of collective wisdom and shared experiences, even if sometimes they might feel overused or trite.

So, the next time you catch yourself saying, “All’s well that ends with a platitude… or not!”, remember that there’s often more to these familiar phrases than meets the eye.

Platitudes play a key role as language staples, offering comfort in times of illness and loss, and giving hope during moments of despair. Their widespread use shows our society’s need for these phrases, as we all look for consolation and encouragement.

Now, a thought-provoking question for you, dear reader: “Could there be undiscovered power in these seemingly overused phrases, or do they merely serve as hollow utterances, masking profound thoughts?”

Embrace the power of reflection, and who knows, you might just find a fresh appreciation for these often-dismissed linguistic gems.

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Jessa Claire is a registered healthcare provider. Music lover. Daydreamer. Thalassophile. Foodie. A hardworking Capricorn. Most days, an incurable empath. An old soul. Down-to-earth. Vibrant. When she's not writing, she can be seen relaxing with headphones on or engrossed in her favorite fan fiction book.