Evocative imagery and keen insights may impress, but they are merely the icing on a well-written review. Its substance comes from understanding who will be reading your review and why. Generally, your readers are looking to you to help them make a decision. They want to know whether it’s worthwhile to read a book, go to a movie, or buy a CD.
Above all else, your review should contain enough information to help your readers make their decision. It can include your commentary, but should also leave room for other interpretations.
Explain your opinions
Emphatic statements, like “This rocks!” or “Don’t waste your money!”, show your strong reaction to whatever you’re reviewing. Yet, on their own, they add little else. Give examples of what drove your reaction. You may think the seventeen minute drum solo during a band’s cover of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is a mini-trip to heaven, but it may make someone else trash their CD.
When you back up your opinions with explanations, your review will meet its goal of informing your readers, even if they don’t share your taste. Remember, they don’t have to agree with your review to find it useful.
Include the pros and cons
Chances are the book, movie, or music you are reviewing will not be all bad or all good. Any art is subjective and your overall opinion of it is only a starting place. As a reviewer, your job is to pay close attention to the details and offer up as much information as you can without giving away the plot.
Regardless of your overall opinion, look for strengths and weaknesses within the work. A more critical look may turn up some interesting nuances that were masked by your initial reaction.
Making comparisons can help your reader form a clearer picture of the book, movie or music you are reviewing. Consider the various elements of the work. Does it remind you of the style of another author, musician or director? Is this work similar to the creator’s own earlier style or a departure into something new?
Finally, think about what you like about other writer’s reviews. Do you prefer writing that is colorful or concise? Emotional or unbiased? Stick to your own style when writing your reviews, but keep in mind that the goal is to inform. By putting your audience ahead of your own opinions, you increase the chances that your readers will find value in your reviews and come back to read more.