How to write helpful reviews

Review writing is getting more and more common for the average person with sites like amazon and goodreads for books, imdb for films and lets not forget blogs and social networking but what kind of reviews actually help people?

For starters, reviews can actually be quite a subjective thing. We all have very differing opinions on what’s good or not. Reviews are most helpful when they look beyond our own personal tastes and look at whether the art, film or book was well executed and stylish, conveyed it’s message well etc. These are things we can evaluate that let everyone know something new about it.

For example, if you write ‘I hated this book because it was full of fluffy bunny rabbits and I hate rabbits, they scare me.’ All the people who read this review only learn two things, there were rabbits and you don’t like them. They don’t learn how the rabbits were used. They could have been a comical plot device meant for light relief and a way to move the book along and this could be something another reader really likes the sound of, likewise from the review they could have decided ‘oh I like rabbits’, picked up the book and read it, and then found they didn’t like how they were used as comic relief. The same goes for films, sometimes what we love others hate and we have to explain how things were used and why and then, if we want, say why we liked it.

Another common mistake reviews make is to criticize the creator. Often things like ‘this person can’t act’ or ‘so and so is the worst writer I’ve read in a long time’ is put into reviews, especially when the reviewer doesn’t like what they’ve seen or read. There are two reasons I don’t think reviews like this are helpful. Firstly, I actually think this is rather rude. The internet seems to give people the feeling of safety and anonymity to say things about people they would never normally say to their faces and to do so publicly. I tend to go with the concept don’t say things to people on the internet that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Secondly, you are only seeing one example of something they have created and it wouldn’t be in a finished film or a book if someone somewhere hadn’t said it was good. If you really don’t like something it’s good to think about why. I’ve seen someone say a person can’t act because they happen to have watched two films in a row with the same actor in and the roles were almost identical so the actor seemed samey. A good way to review it would have been ‘this was a very similar role to his role in film x, I didn’t like that one much so more of the same left me feeling dissapointed’. Anyone who reads that and loved film x for that character is now going to know they will love this new film and anyone who felt the same as you is going to stay away. Your review does the job.

It’s also good to remember to check your facts if you are criticising something for being inaccurate in a certain way. I’ve seen book reviews where an American reviewer has given an English authors book a 1 star review for bad spelling for having colour instead of color and having her main character eat a doughnut rather than a donut. Any American who looks it up will realise that colour is the English equivalent of color and the author hadn’t spelt anything wrong at all.

Anything Historical is another thing to be careful to criticise. I’ve actually received a review myself where the reviewer decided that in my 1805 set book, With Proud Humility, Marie’s mother couldn’t possibly have painted one wall of her room in a pretty garden scene because paint for walls hadn’t been invented yet. I have to humbly enquire how Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel (1508-1512) if there was no paint to do so until after 1805?

With that in mind I’ll leave you with some ‘interesting’ reviews of some classics.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Endless, pointless description. DESCRIPTION, DESCRIPTION, DESCRIPTION!!! The entire book is written in stupid metaphors. The few places where there is actually any dialogue bore the reader to tears. Honestly, i think that this is dubbed a classic simply because it is older than sand. Gee, maybe if I just go out and slop a few words down on a piece of paper, it’ll be a classic in 160 years! It’ll be required of every high school sophomore, like this idiotic “story.” Excuse me now, I’m off to begin my masterpiece. I’m sure it’ll be better than this.

The Diary of a Young girl by Anne Frank – I didn’t like this book because it was boring. That’s all that needs to be said. It was very very very very very very very very very very very boring. If you have to read this book shoot yourself first.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – it was so dumb and it is a waste of your time and i gave it 1 star because that the lowest nember you can give.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickins – after reading this book i think dickens would benifit from very low expectations. and by that i mean a lot of people will be returning this book and giving bad reviews. all the classics always in my opinion, are very bad

Yes those are all real reviews you can go find on Amazon.

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