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Tuesday 13 July 2010

Writing a review: my thoughts

The CriticImage by A river runs through via Flickr
 In response to a fellow writer and friend's concerns regarding writing a review (a task he is more than capable of doing) I decided to re-publish the below review for the "Dooyoo" site back in February. I hope this is useful.
In gratitude for the very kind acknowledgement made by Dooyoo this week by making me a celebrated member of the week, I thought I would give back a bit to the community. Here is a little of my background.
My experience in reviewing probably stems initially from reading media guides at school and my love of subjects like English Language and English Literature. It was further shaped by my A level in English Literature which I did under a truly brilliant teacher. On from this, I have reviewed a number DVDs and books for two mainstream martial arts magazines. Martial arts magazines, even those that sell in WHSmith, pay their freelancers in advertising space if you are lucky!

So this is my advice on what I think makes a good Dooyoo review for a film or a book, my two primary areas of interest. I have been known to occasionally give a review on the odd CD and I love contributing to the discussions, but let's not split hairs here. Please read and, to paraphrase the Little Dragon, absorb what is useful and disregard the rest.

Observe the rules

A review is your opinion on a product you have experienced. Provide some basic details on the film or book, describing what is about and say what you thought. Write the sort of review you enjoy reading. Try not to give too much of the plot away (like I did with my "Casualties of War" review!), but explain what moved you to your opinion. If it makes matters easier just divide your review up into sections detailing first what the film/book is about, some technical details (more applicable to DVD reviews), availability and pricing and then give your opinion.

Obey the law

According to Penn and Teller's fantastic sceptical show "Bulls*it!" calling someone an "a*sehole" won't get you in trouble like calling them a fraud or a charlatan will. It's an interesting piece of advice. I wouldn't encourage you to go into overdrive with obscenities, but to consider even if you thought something was a "rip-off" to be a little careful with your wording.

Rules? We don't need no stinking rules!

Okay, I am not a very inconsistent writer and I resent following the advice offered by some websites such as Ciao. For example, I don't feel it is very important to bombard a review with a massive list of technical details. I am tempted to write a review on one of these demand a lot, give "sweet FA" websites with a list of publishing history for a book. If we are to be honest, you can get most of that by simply clicking the product. There you will get a brief plot summary, list of actors, crew and running time if you really must know! The purpose of a review is to tell prospective customers what you thought!

As for prefixing your statements with unnecessary expressions like "In my opinion..." and "I thought..." this is just encouraging bad and very boring writing. Read any book on the craft of writing and they will tell you to avoid just expressions. Of course, it is your opinion, that's the whole freaking point!

So, in a nutshell, keep it on topic and let us know what you thought. A bit of extra background information on the book or film that isn't contained on the back cover is also very welcome. This is the time to show off, so long as it lends something to the opinion you are giving.
Summary: Keep it on topic and let us know what you think
If you enjoyed this review don't forget to vote for it on Dooyoo

Ideas for further reading. This book is overkill, but still an interesting source for inspiration and guidance.

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