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Advice on how to write a review

If you type how to write a review in the search box in your computer, you will probably be stunned to find that there are a plethora of different types. However, the most common reviews that you come across on an almost daily basis are reviews of

The list is almost endless. These days many people write reviews for online sites for free. They want to help other people make informed decisions about where to go, what to see and what to buy based on their personal experiences. Many people like to see their name on websites as this is a way of driving traffic to their own websites and selling a service or product. Knowing how to write a review has become important for many people.

You might have been asked to write a review of something for you tutor, or you may want to write one for personal reasons and get it published online. Also, it’s possible that you have ambitions to become a product reviewer on a site such as Amazon. Whatever the reason for writing a review, you need to understand what a review is and how it is formatted. The literature review is different and needs to be written about in another article.

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The role of a reviewer is to

  • describe and experience, product and so on
  • inform your readers
  • give descriptions
  • analyse and
  • offer advice

Reviews can be positive or negative, but you have to support your opinions with facts and examples. A review is not like a news story which should be objective and unbiassed. A review is subjective and gives your personal opinion of whatever you are reviewing. You can write in an informal style (as long as you are not writing an academic review).

Reviewing a film, TV series or programme, book or play

The most important thing to keep in mind when reviewing any of the above is to be sure not to give the ending away. You shouldn’t reveal the details of the twists in the plot or sub plot either. The purpose of this kind of review is to persuade your readers that the film, or other form of entertainment is worth seeing or reading. If you give away the ending, there’s no point in anyone bothering to read or watch it. Of course, in the internet there are many ‘spoilers’ but in an honest review you don’t want to spoil someone’s enjoyment. They can always find a spoiler if they want to know the ending or outcome.

When you are reviewing a film, you should give

  • the title,
  • the director’s name,
  • the names of the stars,
  • the release date,
  • a summary (not a detailed exposition) of the plot,
  • short summaries of the scenes you found amusing/ poignant/scary and so on.

You can also give examples of the good or bad acting, but if you write anything negative, you must back up your opinion with evidence.

You may want to comment on the soundtrack and say if it adds or detracts from the film. How does the music aid the viewers’ perception of the film’s action? What about the special effects? At the end of the review you could rate the film out of a maximum of 5 stars.

Before you decide to write a review, you need to do some research. Writing a good review should mean that you have in-depth knowledge of the subject you are reviewing. You may have watched thousands of films, for example, or done a film studies course at university. Such a background would lend authority to your reviews. You can, if you are knowledgeable about your topic, compare and contrast works by other authors, playwrights, directors and so on.

You should also have a working knowledge of what other critics (reviewers) have written. A worthwhile exercise is to read famous critics and analyse how they write. Note that they usually have strong opinions bout their topic and are no afraid to express them.

You really don’t need to use phrases like ‘in my opinion’ because your audience will understand that you are expressing your own views.

When you are writing a review for an online or print publication, a magazine or journal and so on, you need to keep your audience in mind and ensure that your review addresses their needs, interests etc. For example, if you are writing a review for Italian film aficionados you can wax lyrical about the best Italian films, actors and directors. However, if your audience has only a limited knowledge about your subject there will be certain things that you should explain in order for them to understand your references and subject. You can’t, for example, assume that they know all his films and are familiar with his work. Similarly, you can’t assume that a general audience has even heard of the director Luis Buñuel or what is arguably his best film, the surrealist ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.’

When/If you write an online review, you shouldn’t fall into the trap of being vindictive. Many online reviews are purely subjective an extremely negative. Such negativity usually alienates readers and, of course, the person you have targeted. Discuss the experience you had rather than naming names. You really don’t want a libel suit falling into your lap.

If you are writing a review of a restaurant you really need to give the date you went to it, the time of day, whether the service was good, or not, and how crowded the restaurant was. All these factors could influence your negative of positive experience. For example, if you visited a restaurant on Valentine’s Day and thought the service was bad, one reason for this would be the crowded restaurant. Give the mitigating circumstances which were probably responsible for your negative experience. Book a table at the restaurant in the week and find out if the service was still awful before you write your review. Bad reviews can have very negative impacts on a business, so you should always try to be as fair as possible.

There are many different reasons for writing reviews. However, they should all be persuasive and descriptive. If you are enthusiastic about an album, a product, book, ply and so on, you need to give reasons for your enthusiasm. Your readers/audience want to know more, and you need to leave them curious enough to buy whatever it is you are writing about, be that a new album or a cinema ticket. Your review is the bait that hooks people.

Some people are keen to write reviews and get them published on sites like TripAdvisor. This is a good site to practise writing reviews on. For one thing, you can see how many people read your reviews and if you earn ‘helpful’ votes from readers, then that means that you have written a good review. Why not try this and find out what readers think of your reviews? Remember that practise is said to make perfect.

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