If, however, you want to write a more serious review on a book, movie or product, you’ll be writing a full article, and that means you need to apply some sort of structure. There are no hard and fast rules, and you may be limited to some degree as many times reviews will have word count limits, but this is how I like to approach a review article.
Introduce the Thing You Are Reviewing
Your reader wants to know exactly what you are reviewing. If it’s a book or a movie, they’d like to know whether previous efforts by the same author or movie maker were well-received. If it’s a product, they’ll want to know what the product is, who made it, and perhaps some historical background on the manufacturers or their products.
Remember, you know what you’re reviewing because you’ve seen it, heard it, tasted it, touched it, used it, or otherwise consumed it in whatever form it’s intended to be consumed. Your reader doesn’t. Provide readers with the information they need about the item you’re reviewing in your very first paragraph.
In some cases, particularly when you’re reviewing a product, telling your reader why you felt the need to buy it can also help. Give your “why” before or after your “what.” Now your reader will know what you are talking about and what need the item fulfills.
What Did You Like and Dislike About the Product?
Although there are some things you’ll review that don’t have a single good thing about them, that’s pretty rare. For example, a book I recently read was based on a puerile premise and was packed with plot cliches, but the style in which it was written was actually rather good.
For the sake of getting to the point, I usually begin with whatever made the biggest impression. In my example, I’d kick off with the things that annoyed me about the book. Giving reasons for your opinion helps your reader to decide whether the things you did or didn’t like would be the kind of things they identify with. For example: “With its focus on cliched, pulp fiction plotlines that are so full of holes you could use them as a colander, xxx book turned out to be an annoying read. I felt the reader wasn’t being credited with intelligence and the author wasn’t really trying.”
But it wouldn’t be fair to only give my opinion on the things I didn’t like, so I might follow that up with: “The author’s writing style is nevertheless beautiful – the only reason why I persevered with the story all the way through to its unsurprising ending.”
What Could Make It More Acceptable to You?
Even when you’re reviewing something you really like, there’s usually room for some kind of improvement. At the risk of annoying its many fans, I could say that the book War and Peace is a trifle too long, for example. After all, a review is an expression of opinions, and you or I can have any opinions we like as long as we can back them up with information. Using my silly book (not War and Peace) as an example, I would probably say: “If the same author could come up with a more original and less sentimental plotline instead of rehashing a formula, I’d be very interested in seeing the result.”
Sum It All Up
Lazy readers, which is to say most people, will read your opening paragraph and then skim down to your concluding paragraph to see if you actually did arrive at a conclusion. This paragraph briefly sums up the main points you’ve highlighted and may end with a call to action such as “Boycott this hotel!” or “Try it for yourself, I think you’ll love it as much as I did.”
More Serious Reviews
Most reviews follow the structure we’ve discussed above. If you’re being asked for a subjective opinion, you can back it up by describing how you arrived at it, but sometimes you have to write a “literature review.” This means you have to track down all the published literature you can find on a certain topic and piece it together with references so that you can draw a coherent conclusion that is supported by the accepted academic works you’ve discovered. It’s much harder to do, and it’s nevertheless not as daunting as you might think, but that’s a topic for a future article.