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Consider this headline:

Horrific Accident On Live TV Captivates The Internet

Dictionary.com gives the following definitions for captivate:

  1. to attract and hold the attention or interest of, as by beauty or excellence; enchant.
  2. Obsolete . to capture; subjugate.

and the following for engross:

  1. to occupy completely, as the mind or attention; absorb.
  2. to write or copy in a clear, attractive, large script or in a formal manner, as a public document or record.
  3. to acquire the whole of (a commodity), in order to control the market; monopolize.

It seems to me “engross” is more appropriate.

Are there other verbs that better suit this context?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by FumbleFingers, phenry, Kristina Lopez, tchrist, MετάEd Jun 29 '13 at 11:37

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

4 Answers 4

I feel that both captivate and engross imply a subject of a pleasant nature. I would be captivated by the beautiful dawn and can get engrossed in a good book.

The dictionary definition you have provided for captivate supports this since it mentions "beauty or excellence". I would use neither word to describe the obsession over horrific events that can affect people.

Additionally, the internet is a loose collection of computers communicating via certain protocols. It can be neither captivated nor engrossed. The people using it can be, but not the internet itself. For the specific usage of your question, I would say:

Horrific Accident On Live TV Sets The Internet Abuzz

or

Horrific Accident On Live TV Is All Over The Internet

or

Horrific Accident On Live TV Floods The Internet

If you can change the word order, this would be even better:

Internet Abuzz Over Horrific Accident On Live TV

Now, if you really really need to use to stick to the form of your original question, I would either go for grips as @KristinaLopez suggested or fascinates which has neither positive nor negative connotations and is often used in both contexts:

Horrific Accident On Live TV Fascinates The Internet

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I'm going for this one because at least you've pointed out that both captivate and engross aren't really appropriate descriptors for a "horrific accident" (they usually imply entertain, thrill, enthral, enchant, bedazzle, etc.). Fascinate has quite a bit going for it though, bearing in mind morbid fascination is a commonplace conjunction. Whatever, I still think the question itself is POB. –  FumbleFingers Jun 28 '13 at 21:17
    
Thanks for the mention, @terdon, but I can't agree that captivate and engross imply a pleasant nature. There's nothing other then our own opinion or sentiment to fuel that argument. There is a dark side to attraction, substantiated by some of captivate's synonyms: beguile, bewitch, fascinate, magnetize, wile. And related words: disarm, draw, entice, lure, pull, seduce, tempt, interest, intrigue; beckon, court, invite, solicit, woo –  Kristina Lopez Jun 28 '13 at 21:24

Macmillan has pithier definitions for these words that may help clarify their use.

captivate, v.t.: to attract or interest someone very much

engross, v.t.: when something engrosses you, you think about nothing else

So captivate is entirely appropriate in the context in which it is used.

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Actually, one of the words in the definition of "captivate" makes it my preferred word - "attract". If the story does not attract someone's attention, there is no possibility for them to get "engrossed" in it.

For another option, there is "mesmerize":

1) to subject to mesmerism; also : hypnotize

2) spellbind

Synonyms: arrest, bedazzle, catch up, enchant, fascinate, grip, hypnotize, enthrall, spellbind

One of the related words, "grip", is also good for your purpose:

News of the horrific accident gripped the Internet

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@ Kristina Lopezto attract as of by beauty or excellence it is mentioned. How can a horrific event do? –  misensalem Jun 28 '13 at 19:41
    
Not attraction as in sexual attraction but in the sense of "fascination". We all look at the accident on the side of the road because we have a lurid fascination with disasters and misfortunes of others. I guess another way to look at the word "attract" is like a moth is "attracted" to a light. It can't resist flying into it - not because it loves it but because it can't help it. –  Kristina Lopez Jun 28 '13 at 19:45
    
I would opt for this word only if the language was running short for words. But English does offer - what seems to me- a better alternative. Perhaps it's a personal matter, I'm not comfortable with the word 'captivate' in this particular context. –  misensalem Jun 28 '13 at 19:52
    
Fortunately there are plenty of synonyms out there for both those words. Mesmerize has a certain appeal. I'm appending my answer to include it and its synonyms. –  Kristina Lopez Jun 28 '13 at 19:56
    
I wasn't very sure about "engross" either--that's why I asked for other synonyms that carry the right connotation. –  misensalem Jun 28 '13 at 20:01

Horrific accident on live TV goes viral. I think everybody gets this shorthand - and it makes for a snappier, more authoritative headline. If a word is tripping you up in a heading, look for a different construction.

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