The Seraph
  • Moderator: Mr. Hessel
Writing A&E Reviews
Ten Tips on Writing Reviews
Based on a list by Steve Row, Journalism Education Coordinator, Richmond Newspapers, Inc.

1. Know what you are talking about. Your credibility drops dramatically if you misspell an actor’s name, if you get a song title wrong, or make other mistakes. At least one reader will know much more than you about what you are reviewing; probably many readers will know at least as much as you do, if not more.

2. Take a stand and stick with it, and give reasons for your analysis. Reviews are not written by wimps. Don’t simply say “This is a great movie.” You must say “This is a great movie because �” Don’t use “I” in the review; don’t say “In my opinion” or “I think” or “It seems to me that �” Use strong, effective language. Evoke images, make comparisons, use metaphors.

3. Take notes. You cannot remember everything you see or hear. If something in a movie or play reminds you of something you have seen before, take note. Then mention it, regardless of whether you praise or criticize its reference to the earlier work. Taking notes in a restaurant is difficult; ask for a menu to take home with you (but don’t alert the staff that you are reviewing the restaurant because you don’t want them to give you special treatment).

4. Be observant of the subject you are reviewing, and show the reader you have been observant. If you say the backup musicians play well, give an example or three. If you are annoyed by the soundtrack at certain points in the movie, say when and why. In concert reviews, refer not only to the performance, but also to the setting, atmosphere and crowd.

5. Criticism means you can be critical of something. If you don’t like what you are reviewing, say so. Don’t criticize 100 percent of the work if you also found something to like, and don’t praise 100 percent of the work if you found something you didn’t like.

6. Know some history of the work and the people responsible for it. (See No. 1) If this is the television actress’ first film, if this is the group’s 10th recording, if the restaurant just opened, say so. This helps establish your credibility.

7. Be sure to tell the reader what you are reviewing. It’s not just a movie, it’s a mystery or drama or comedy or romance or science fiction. It’s not just a recording, it’s punk, fusion, heavy metal, or country. Say what the restaurant specializes in.

8. Pay attention to how a review is written. You don’t need to quote other people about what you are reviewing. This is one’s writer’s analysis. You can include audience reactions (they looked bored, applauded thunderously, etc.). Restaurant, concert and play reviews can be written in the past tense; movie, video, videogame, television, book and CD reviews can be written in the present tense. Include details such as the rating of a movie (and why) and the range of entrée prices on a restaurant menu.

9. Remember that as a critic, you are providing consumer information to your readers. Be sure to include such things as the name of the theater where the movie is playing, the exact street address of the restaurant, the cost and publisher of the book, the night of the week, time and network of a television show.

10. Don’t get carried away with your role as a critic. If readers can’t understand what you are saying because you aren’t clear, if your analysis is filled with mistakes or factual errors, if your opinion seems too far-fetched, abrasive or cynical, or if your review doesn’t reflect thorough knowledge of what is being reviewed, readers will stop reading you.


More Advice from H.L. Hall

Compare and Contrast

An important element that is missing from many reviews is contrast and comparision.

Depending on the type of review, there is always something to compare and contrast.

Restaurant Menu offerings and prices with those of similar restaurants.

Movie: Other movies by the director or starring the lead actor(s), other roles the lead actors have performed, the movie to similar type movies or to a book if it is based on one.

Album: the artist’s previous works, the artist with other artists of the same genre.