|Issue #10 of the Writing.Com Reviewing Newsletter.
Your editor is: Arwee
[ Table of Contents ]
1. About this Newsletter
2. Letter from the Editor
3. Editor's Picks
4. Ask & Answer
5. Useful Links
[ About this Newsletter ]
Many of us have heard of the old saying, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. But how does that translate into reviewing, and specifically, critical and in-depth reviewing? Further along that same strain of thought, how do you write an entertaining review that’s also helpful? Believe it or not, it’s quite easy.
[ Letter from the Editor ]
While it’s true that writing is serious business for many people, reviewing and reading writing doesn’t have to be serious all of the time. It is also true that an editor of a major publisher won’t be trying their hardest to say nice things when they go through your stories. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to be as serious and straightforward as a major editor. There are many ways that you can help out your fellow writers while stating your criticisms as nicely as possible, and you can even be funny too. Here are some of the things I do to ensure my reviewees feel encouraged and have fun while reading a review.
Sometimes when you’re writing an in-depth review for a story it might start dragging on over 10,000 characters. If you read back on your comments, you do have a lot to say, and all of it might be useful. But isn’t there a way to make your review seem more entertaining to read? Let’s face it, 10,000 characters is a lot! And reading 10,000 characters will be quite an eyeful for your reviewee too. But a 10,000 character or more review doesn’t have to be an eyeful; it can be fun.
The simplest way to introduce an element of fun in your review is to sit back and make some jokes. I often make jokes about myself, because it’s easiest to make someone else smile by demonstrating that you have a sense humor about yourself. Say the piece you’re reviewing reminds you of a funny anecdote that happened to you when you were six and you don’t mind sharing it. Why not write it into your review? Just make sure you don’t take an entire paragraph telling your story.
If you don’t want to talk about yourself to some stranger on the internet, look for areas in your review were you can seamlessly introduce a joke you heard. A nice joke or a funny anecdote can lighten the mood of an otherwise serious review. And while your reviewee is going through the review, scowling at all the mistakes you pointed out, that story about how you thought the moon was made out of cheese might take away some of their tension. Not to mention it can make your review more personable and you more approachable.
So, what if you’re not into the joke and anecdote thing? What can you do to turn a serious review into a helpful but fun review without trying to rely on jokes or stories? How about using more smilies? The emoticons on WDC are a surprisingly useful tool for many people. Of course, you shouldn’t write an entire review composed mostly of smilies (remember what we talked about regarding WML-ridden reviews?), but a carefully placed smilie here or there makes your giant review look less intimidating. I find that a smilie placed at the end of a plot suggestion seems to lesson the blow. There’s just something reassuring about that yellow emoticon. There is only one downside about using smilies. They make your review look unprofessional. But, unless you’re a major editor for a publishing company looking for the next J.K. Rowling, a smilie or two won’t hurt.
Don’t have any stories or jokes, and you don’t want to start using smilies? Don’t worry, there are tons of other ways for a writer to lighten the mood of their review. WDC’s reviewing community is great at being honest and supportive. If you want to lighten the mood of your review, try to reassure your reviewee in your review and tell them that they’re free to contact you later if they want to ask more questions. Opening themselves up for post-review dialogue is a great way to help others relax, and again, it makes you seem approachable. For example, let’s say your reviewee has some trouble with commas.
While saying this is perfectly valid and it’s quite helpful too: I think you may be having some trouble understanding comma usage because they seem to be placed at random in your sentences. For example […]. So, you see, that’s how a comma can be used more effectively in your writing.
It sounds a little distant, doesn’t it? And while the comment is perfectly useful, there’s a number of ways to make it seem more lighthearted and encouraging: I think you may be having some trouble understanding comma usage because they seem to be placed at random in your sentences. For example […]. I know getting the hang of commas is difficult. I used to have trouble doing it too, so, if you think you need some more tips or just want to ask questions feel free to send me an e-mail.
Notice how the second example sounds more personable and encouraging. It’s also a
great way to show your reviewee that you have a vested in interest in their work and their
growth as a writer. And if they contact you again, you already know where their weaknesses
are, and you can use the opportunity to be friends with them as well.
Don’t stop there, you can show your encouragement during reviews a number of other
ways as well. There’s always the option of highlighting areas in the story you felt were really well done, so the reviewee will know what they did right. It’s a great feeling to see what a reviewer liked in your story. So, don’t take these tips as hard rules; you can make your own fun while writing your reviews. Just remember, don’t sacrifice good critical comments for jokes. A review is there to help a writer improve their writing, first and foremost. It just doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.
[ Editor’s Picks ]
This is the contest for reviewers and writers, with huge prizes for finalists, so check it out!
Some great tips on writing, and being a graceful writer.
An awesome How I Review explanation.
A blossoming new review group with a great name.
[ Ask and Answer ]
Tigger thinks of Prancer Wrote:
“Great article! I especially like that you pointed out that sometimes errors are just oversights and don't need to be explained.”
Thanks for the comment!
Anne Light Wrote:
“This was a fantastic newsletter, and I fully second the point you made. It's one way of reasoning to say if the reviewee made a mistake, they probably don't know why either. But I've got another point. Giving the reasons behind your critique also tells the reviewee where the reviewer is coming from, and what's his take on the story. I keep thinking that the thread that binds the writer to the reader/reviewer is a very thin one. The writer takes things for granted the reader doesn't see simply because they don't share the same brain. An imprecise critique makes the thread of communication even thinner. It may appear that the reviewer has written a different piece than the writer has written. And we'd like to avoid that, wouldn't we? Thanks again for your newsletter! I'm always looking forward to the next!”
Hey, that’s a great point! It’s definitely beneficial for everyone that a reader and writer (or reviewer and writer) bridge as many gaps between the storyteller and the story receiver as possible. Thanks for writing in.
[ Useful Links ]
"Feedback Central" – Send the editors some suggestions and general feedback.
"Reviewing Newsletters" – View previous issues of the Reviewing Newsletter.