Reviews have become very important in day-to-day life. Whether you are looking to buy a new microwave from Amazon, you need to know if your local takeaway offers value for money, or you want to know how good a movie is, we all look to reviews to help shape our decisions.
A review is essentially one person’s opinion, but it is an opinion based on an experience. Therefore, we find value in reviews because we appreciate the author is imparting their experience (and potentially their wisdom) onto us.
The great thing about reviews is that anyone can write them and they can be found at the touch of a button or a click of a mouse – meaning easy advice when we need it. But just because anyone can write a review, doesn’t mean every review is good.
In this post, I am going to explain how YOU can put together a great review, so that you are imparting YOUR knowledge in the best way possible. If you have previously struggled to write a review, or you are not quite sure what to say, read on and this will help you out.
Understanding a bad review
As mentioned above, anyone can write a review, but not all reviews are worth reading. The point of a review is to help someone by enhancing their knowledge, and you are never going to do this if you write a bad review.
So, let’s deal with bad reviews first. What is a bad review?
A bad review isn’t a review in which you explain how much you hate something. For example, if you have a severe dislike for the movie Star Wars (1977), and you write a review about how awful you think it is, that is not a bad review.
If you genuinely believe Star Wars is a terrible movie, then as long as you explain your reasons for reaching this conclusion, and you back your opinion up with examples, then it is not a bad review. However, if your review merely consists of the following: “I watched Star Wars last week and I thought it was rubbish”, then this is a bad review.
It is a bad review because it doesn’t provide any useful information. The review doesn’t explain anything about Star Wars, and it doesn’t explain why you disliked the movie.
To improve the review, you could write the following: “Last week I watched Star Wars – a fantasy movie directed by George Lucas. I thought it was rubbish because the acting was poor and the story was weak.”
This is a better review, because now it includes a few more details, but this is still a bad review. The review is bad because the information about the film remains limited, the criticism needs further explanation, and ultimately the review is too brief.
This review takes mere seconds to read, and is not going to hold anyone’s attention. Remember, you’re not providing feedback on an eBay purchase, you are writing your full thoughts about a two-hour movie!
It is also important to note, the above review is fairly generic – anyone could write it. Where is the personality? Where is the flair? Nothing about the review suggests the author has any experience in reviewing movies or knows anything about Star Wars, so, how can the review be trusted?
If you have spent two hours watching a movie, and you are keen to share your thoughts in the shape of a review, make sure you take the time to convey your feelings in full. Don’t skimp on the details, don’t jot down 28 words and call it a review, and don’t write something generic that anyone can sling together in two minutes.
In short: Don’t write a bad review.
Now, let’s write a great review!
Writing a great review
OK, so I’ve explained what a bad review is, now let’s move on to a great review. Not a good review, but a great review. And this advice applies to any type of review you want to write.
If you want to elevate your review from bad to great it is pretty simple. You just need to understand how to structure your review, what to include in your review, and how to ensure the review contains YOUR personality and experience.
And let’s start with YOUR personality and experience first. This is something which is very, very, very important.
If I read a review, then I want to know some basic information about the subject matter, but more importantly, I want to know I can trust the review – I want to know if I can trust you. This is vital, as it will determine whether I take your advice and it will determine if I ever read one of your reviews again.
Let’s use an example.
If you are writing a review about a mountain bike, and this is the tenth mountain bike you have owned in your lifetime, then make that clear in your review. Tell me why you have owned nine other mountain bikes, and why you have reached a point in your life that you need a tenth.
The reason could be because you have worn out the previous nine and need a replacement, or it could be because you have an addiction to buying mountain bikes! Either way, by providing this little bit of information, I know more about you and your relationship with mountain bikes.
Dropping this information into your review also tells me you have a history with mountain bikes, so I know that you have experience in this field. This will help me to determine whether I should trust your review or not.
Now of course, if this is your tenth mountain bike review, and your previous nine reviews were also about mountain bikes, then you don’t need to go into huge detail about bicycles one through nine. Instead, make reference to a couple of your previous mountain bikes in your latest review, and ensure you include links back to those reviews so the reader can check them out.
At all times, make sure you are putting something of yourself into the review. This doesn’t mean you make the review about you, what it means is you make sure your readers are aware that you have some knowledge on this subject – and that your knowledge spans beyond this review.
Over the course of time, and as you build up a bank of reviews, your personality and experience will automatically filter into your writing. You won’t need to think about it, it’ll just happen, but it may need a kick-start to get you going.
No matter what you decide to review, and no matter how knowledgeable you are about the subject you are reviewing, you still need to put the review together. This can sometimes be quite daunting, and will often leave some people scratching their heads and asking the question: ‘Where do I start?’
The easy answer to that question is: ‘Start at the beginning’. But before you type out your first word, I want you to remember that you are about to tell a story.
As with any story, you need a beginning, a middle, and an end. You want to take your readers on a journey, providing them with all the information they require, and you should do this in stages, the same way you would recount a story.
In the beginning, you want to explain what it is you are reviewing. If it is a lawnmower, explain what brand/model of lawnmower it is. If it is a Lego set, then explain what is included in the set.
Use the opening of your review to provide as much detail as possible, include facts (size, price, availability etc), and explain why are you writing the review. Is this a new product that had just been launched?
You can also use this section to provide some backstory to your review. So, if you are reviewing a Lego set, and it is part of an existing range which has been incredibly successful and shows no signs of being discontinued, then say that. Once again, this demonstrates that you have knowledge in this field.
In the mid-section of your review, use this space to discuss your subject in greater detail. This is where you become more descriptive.
Let’s use the Star Wars review from earlier as an example. If you were to write a review of Star Wars then here is where you would explain what you liked and didn’t like about the movie, providing examples from the film.
Remember, this is your review, so you don’t have to go with the general consensus. Even though Star Wars is widely regarded as a popular film, if you don’t think it is a good movie, then here is your opportunity to fully explain your opinion.
But don’t say something is bad just to go against the grain or for click-bait – this will not help you build up trust with readers. This has to be your genuine opinion, and if you know it is going to be a controversial opinion, make sure you have plenty of evidence to support your point of view.
The final section of your review is where you start to round things up. Tie up any loose ends, summarise any final points, and tell the reader why they should or shouldn’t be interested in the thing you are reviewing.
And it is here where you can go from being a good reviewer, to a great reviewer. And you do this by distancing yourself from your own opinion.
What I mean by this, is that just because you do/don’t like something, doesn’t mean everyone will share your opinion, and you should be mindful of this. Let me explain.
Let’s say I am into music, and I love nothing but jazz music. I listen to jazz all day long, I can tell you everything about Chet Baker or Miles Davis, and I think jazz is the only music that anyone should listen to.
Now imagine that I decide to review a new song from an up-and-coming boy band. The music is firmly placed in the pop category, has nothing to do with jazz, and is not something I would ever find enjoyment listening to.
Throughout my review I make it clear that I am not a fan, and give my reasons for this. But if I take a step back, consider the song in the context of the pop genre, and ask myself is this a catchy tune, will it have universal appeal(?), then I can give a more rounded opinion.
I can still state in my review that I don’t like the song, but if I believe it will be popular with mainstream listeners, then I can add a caveat which states that I think the song will be successful or find a loyal fanbase. And by doing this, you are demonstrating that you are able to move beyond your own feelings, which demonstrates that you are not biased or single-minded in your opinions.
This doesn’t mean every review has to end with ‘I didn’t like this, but other people will’. It simply means you should think about the average person on the street and what they might like.
As an example, in my review for the movie, Saint Maud, I thought the film was good, but I felt that it would not appeal to everyone, so I noted this in my review. But in my review for Cats, I didn’t feel it would have any appeal whatsoever, not to me or the next person, so I made it clear I thought this was a bad movie with no exceptions.
If you adopt a three-part structure for all your reviews, you include some of your personality and experience, and you remember to take a step back and consider the average reader, this will help you to compile a review that is easy to read and easy to write. Then, as your confidence grows you will be able to develop it further, mix things around a little, and find new ways to write reviews which work even better for you.
And now onto something which can ruin a great review…
Spoilers have become the bane of news items, social media posts, and yep, you guessed it, reviews! Whether it is the plot of a new novel, the twist in a movie, or a key turning point in a TV drama, even the smallest spoiler in a review can completely ruin someone’s potential enjoyment.
Some people go out of their way to avoid spoilers, while others go out of their way to discuss them! And then there are those who don’t even realise they are dropping spoilers, simply because they haven’t given it much thought.
There is one very hard and fast rule when it comes to spoilers: You don’t need to ever include spoilers in a review.
You can include them in a review – more on this in a moment – but you don’t need to. You can talk about a novel, a movie, or a TV show without the need to drop any spoilers.
Even if you think there is simply no way to review something without including spoilers, you are wrong. If you think it is impossible, then go back over that section of your review and reword your sentences to remove or readjust what you have said.
You can hint about something significant, you can allude to a big revelation in the story, but don’t make it obvious. Subtlety and caution is always the best approach.
However, if there is a huge twist in a movie you are reviewing, and this twist impacts the way in which someone will view the movie, then don’t say there is a huge twist – don’t even go anywhere near it. If you tell your readers there is a huge twist, when they watch the movie, they will spend the entire time looking out for it, rather than enjoying the story.
Of course, if you want your review to be an in-depth discussion on the film, and this means you feel you really have to include spoilers, make this clear at the top of your review. Put your SPOLIER WARNING in big bold letters, give your readers the opportunity to decide if they want to read on, and make sure you don’t include the spoiler in your title!
OK, so you have your review written up, now you want to include some photos. And you should always include some photos.
It doesn’t matter what you review, always add in some images to illustrate your words. This is especially important if you are reviewing a product, as your readers will want to see the item for themselves – especially areas of the product that you talk about at length.
Going back to the mountain bike scenario, if you are reviewing a mountain bike and you talk about its main features, then take plenty of shots of the bicycle. Do some close-up shots of the wheels, the gears, the saddle etc, and make sure they are clear, using the best lighting you can.
Don’t include anything embarrassing or distracting in your photos – this is a big no-no – and always think about what you should include in the images. If you were reading this review, what images would you want to see?
If you are reviewing a novel, then including images can be limited, but a shot of the book cover is always a must. If it is a film that you are writing about, then a few screengrabs will be good.
Once again, be mindful of spoilers, so if you are reviewing a movie or a TV programme, then don’t use any images that include spoilers. If an unexpected character pops up in a scene in a movie, and this is not common knowledge, then don’t include this image anywhere in your review – and certainly not in the header image.
Speaking of which, the header image at the top of your review needs to look good. If you have ten images to include in your review, nine are good, but one is excellent, then use the excellent one at the top of your review. If your image looks interesting, eye-catching, and inviting, then readers will be encouraged to open up your review.
Link, tag, and share
As you write more and more reviews, be sure to include links to past reviews when required. This doesn’t mean inserting links for no good reason, but as previously noted, if you have other reviews that will be helpful to your readers then point them in the right direction with links.
Chances are, if someone has stumbled across your review and has taken the time to read what you have written, then they will be interested in reading your views on similar topics. By adding links you will make it easier to find the content that is most useful to them.
Then once you have got everything in order, before you publish your post make sure to tag and categorise the review with all the relevant keywords related to your topic. For more information on tagging and categorising, as well as other useful tips, be sure to check out my post: How to increase your blog traffic.
As soon as you are happy, click publish on your review and don’t forget to share it on social media. Be sure to share it with your friends too, and anyone you think would benefit from your words.
Be confident. If you have written a review and you know it is a truthful opinion and others will find it useful, then get it out there!
Practise makes perfect
The more reviews you write, the better your reviews will become. If you review a lot of novels, or mountain bikes, or whatever it is you chose to review, you will also become more knowledgeable about this particular subject.
Knowledge is built up over time, I’m afraid there is no fast route to gaining knowledge, but the more knowledgeable you become the better you will be at discussing your given topic. So, if you decide that your main aim is to only write reviews about crisps, then make sure to go out and try as many different flavours as possible – and not just the ones you like.
Challenge yourself, push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and learn as much as you can. Eat the crisps that other people haven’t tried or are unfamiliar with, and then review them all.
The above information should have armed you with everything you need to know about compiling a great review. Just as a reminder, here is a quick recap of the key points.
- Don’t write a bad review – bad reviews are lazy, pointless, and don’t benefit anyone
- Bring your personality and experience into your reviews – demonstrate your knowledge at all times
- Write your review to a basic structure – include a beginning, middle, and end, ensuring you cover key information, and you make your opinion clear
- Avoid spoilers where possible and if you do include them, then simply include a clear spoiler warning
- Add plenty of images to your review
- Include links and tags, then share your posts
- Build up your knowledge and step outside your comfort zone
And remember, this is YOUR review. It’s not mine, it’s not your friend’s, and it’s certainly not anyone else’s. You don’t have to agree with what other people say, this is about your viewpoint, and you can write your review any way you see fit – serious, comical, whatever. Just make sure you remain truthful, informative, and work towards the goal of helping someone with your words.
I hope this post about writing great reviews has found you well. Those of you who read It’s A Stampede! on a regular basis will know my posts tend to focus on movies and general geek content rather than improving everyone’s blogging abilities, but sharing knowledge benefits everyone.
If you find this information helpful, then please do me a favour, and give it a social media share. A share will make a big difference to me and hopefully to other bloggers.
For more useful posts, please check out the recommended reads below.
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