How to Write a Review

How to write a review
There are numerous places where you’re only expected to leave a brief comment when you write a review. For example, an Amazon review consists of allocating a star rating and writing anything from a couple of words: “Great product!” to a couple of paragraphs to explain just why you think the product or vendor is or isn’t great. You can say whatever you like. Nobody’s going to expect a structured review article. They just want to know if you think the product is any good or not, and your opinion allows them to compare reviews with thoseĀ of others.

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.

3 comments

  1. Is it really all that complicated to write a review? I mean, all it is your opinion. You really don’t have to do any research. I think this article makes it seem more difficult that it actually is. Just write what you feel.

    1. I think it depends a lot on the type of review that your writing. If you’re writing a review for a travel website or Amazon or something like that, I don’t think writing a review is all that difficult. You can just state your opinion on whatever product or service you used.

      If, however, you’re writing a review for some type of publication, it’s a little bit more complicated. You need to do research and put a little bit of thought and planning into it. It can’t just be stream of conscious writing which you often see in the above type of reviews.

  2. I would like to encourage anybody who reads this article to take the time and honestly review stuff that you buy. If you’ve ever read a review and it’s helped you make a decision, by taking the time to give your opinion on a product or service you can help somebody make a good decision to. There are so many people who are now writing false reviews that it’s even more important for people to write real ones so the truth about products and services comes out.

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