Five stars

Top tips for writing a review

The goal of a review is to evaluate or judge something. We judge things every day. For example, you have a favourite band or television show, and you like one supermarket more than you like another. These are judgements. When you write a review, your job is to state your opinion or judgement and support it. You do this by presenting reasons and evidence.

Read, watch, or listen to the work more than once

The first time you read or watch something, get an overall sense of the work. Then think about its strengths and weaknesses. Read or watch it again to confirm your first impressions. This time, take careful notes. Be ready to change your mind if a closer look sends you in a different direction.

Provide essential information

Tell readers the complete title of the work and the name of its author or creator. Supply the publisher, publication date, and other information about when the piece was created and where readers or viewers can find it. Check your facts. The details in a review must be accurate.

Understand your audience

Reviews appear in all sorts of places. You’ll find them in local and national publications, online, and also in specialized journals and neighbourhood newsletters. Research the places you hope to publish your review, and write accordingly. Think about what you need to explain. General readers will need more background information than readers of a publication aimed at experts.

Take a stand

State your opinion of the work you’re evaluating. Your review can be negative, positive, or mixed. Your job is to support that opinion with details and evidence. Even if readers disagree with you, they need to see how you reached your conclusions.

Explain how you’re judging the work

Decide on your criteria, the standards you’ll use to judge the book, show, or film. You might believe a novel is successful when it has characters you care about and a plot that makes you want to keep reading. State these criteria so your readers understand what you believe.

Introduce evidence to support your criteria

Support your judgments with quotations or descriptions of scenes from the work. Also consult outside sources. Have other critics agreed with your opinion of this work? You may want to mention these reviews, too. Always make sure to cite other writers’ work correctly, if used.

Know the conventions of the genre

Every type of writing or art has specific elements. A mystery has to have suspense, while a romance must have characters you believe would be attracted to one another. Consider theme, structure, characters, setting, dialogue, and other relevant factors. Understand these conventions and take them into account as part of your criteria.

Compare and contrast

Comparison can be a great way to develop your evaluation. Suppose you claim that a film has wonderful, original dialogue. Demonstrate this by sharing some dialogue from another film that has stiff, wooden, or clichéd dialogue. Use the contrast to prove your point.

Do not summarize the entire plot

Books, films, and television shows have beginnings, middles, and endings. People read and watch these works in part because they want to know what happens. Let them enjoy their stories. Provide a general idea of what happens, but don’t give away important secrets, especially the end.

 

Read more about writing reviews.

 

Back to Top writing tips.

You might also be interested in:

Top tips for better writing

Top tips for word choice

See more from Top writing tips