March 6, 2014

I’ve recently been doing some reviews of theatre and comedy in Brighton for The Argus. Over my career, I’ve reviewed film for the News of the World, cookbooks for an online site and travel journalism for the Telegraph, Argus, Mirror and Daily Mirror which is a form of review.

With so many people writing reviews these days, I thought it would be useful to get a few tips together. Even if you’re critiqueing your latest toaster, you still need to think about what your reader wants to know.

1. Put it in context.  Don’t forget the basics – who, why, where, what, when and how. Don’t assume your reader knows all the product or person or event you are reviewing. Make it easy for them,

Ie  Snowdrops,  shortlisted for the Booker Prize is the first novel of author A.D.Miller.

2 . Don’t give away the ending whether a film, book or play.

3 . Always include the information the reader will need somewhere at the top or bottom of your article, such as dates, venues, price, where a product can be bought and so on. If online, give a link to a relevant site.

4 . Don’t get too clever unless you are writing for a music mag or similar. The reader wants to know what you think of a TV show or new dishwasher, not how many times you’ve reached for the thesaurus.

5 . Give it colour – describe an incident, song, special feature in detail instead of simply talking about general opinions.

6.  Back up your views with examples.  Your review needs to be factual as well as opinionated.

7.  Keep a theme throughout.  Decide that theme/viewpoint before you start and follow it through the article. For example, if a film was not as good as it is hyped to be, refer to that point at the beginning, in the middle and the end. This is an opinion piece and you need to have a strong argument.

8 . Be fair in your reviewing.  It’s not easy to be in a play, write a book, design an ipad. Although people who do so may have a great life and earn lots of money, they still deserve some respect. It’s too easy to throw insults from the safety of your sofa. But don’t be too fawning either.

9 . If possible, ‘fess up if you have had a freebie. Or pay for things yourself.

10.  Always think about why you are reviewing something. What does the reader want to know about that product, play or event?  Each time it could be different. They may want to know if they should spend their money on something, what a favourite artist performed at a gig they missed or if a film is suitable for their child. Work out why someone will read your review and address those issues throughout.

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