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Rated: E · Article · How-To/Advice · #1065724
Are you speechless when you stare at that little reviewing box? Here are some tips.
*Bullet* On Giving Reviews *Bullet*

In scroll, in replies, in emails...so many people in so many places, whether moderators, preferred authors, registered authors or newbies, have said that they can not compose an in-depth review. It can be difficult, but when looked at in the right way, a lot of the difficulty of reviewing drops away, and it's easier to approach everything with an open mind.

Whether you seek to help other writers with their work or are simply searching for a way to critically examine other stories in a quest to improve your own, here are some tips on composing a detailed review, gained from my time on the site, three years tutoring in a writing center in college, and miscellaneous teaching experiences.

Remember, reviewing will not only help the person receiving the review, it will also help the reviewer, because in critically examining and reviewing the works of other authors, reviewers gain insight into their own writing and the ability to look at it distantly with a critical eye.

          *Thumbsup* Things to Remember When Composing a Review: *Thumbsup*

*Bullet* Be Positive. Whether you think the story is something that was written when an exhausted and depressed writer ingested Dran-O and sat down to write or a whether you find a story deserving of world-wide recognition, remember that the people on this site are just like you. They come in search of help with their writing, and like you, they have probably spent a lot of time on it, whether it's a poem or a story, an article, essay or novel. They're looking for honesty, but they're also looking for tips to improve. In this wonderful community of writers here on WDC, we're all joining together as writers and readers to learn. Review something like you would want one of your own pieces reviewed.

*Bullet* Be Honest. If you think that the story deserves a 3.0 rating, give it that! Do not give a reader false encouragement. There is always something good about a story if it is written in earnest, even if that fact is the only thing good about it! Try to point out things that could be improved, of course, but don't tell people that they have no chance of getting better, because everyone does. This site and the amazing members here have proved that over and over. Rate honestly, but do it kindly.

*Bullet* Be Critical. This relates to all the other ones, but it is very important by itself. Remembering to be honest and positive, look at the story. Don't look at it only for its problems. Look at the story from every aspect, and decide how it affected you. Was it the writer's intention that the story affected you that way? Was something missing? You may have found mistakes or inconsistencies, and I know that as a writer, I appreciate reviewers pointing those out. Even so, grammar is not everything. The goal of writing is to immerse your readers in your own world and make them care about your characters.

These three points are some of the most important things to keep in mind when reviewing. However, reviewers must also consider the more technical aspect of looking at a piece critically.

         *Thumbsup* How to Review Critically / Aspects to Consider *Thumbsup*

Poems, short stories, essays and articles are often the things that need the most attention when reviewing. This section is to familiarize reviewers with the aspects of these item types.

*Bullet* Stories *Bullet*

*Shield8* Characters are one of the very most important things about a story. When you read a story, can you imagine these characters? Could you explain their personalities if you were asked, or would you be able to just smile and wonder about an intentionally mysterious character? Could you speak of important physical traits or characteristic actions? Characters, whether in short stories or novels, need to be consistent. Was a cold, uncaring character introduced, only to go out of his way pages later to help someone? Whether you like a character or consider his or her violent demise, it's all about how they strike you. Good characters are vivid, and so real that you could swear you've met them before. They're funny or cruel or determined or heroic or saddening. Good characters leave their mark on you.

*Shield5* Dialogue is not just talking. Anyone can talk. Dialogue accomplishes much more than speech, though. It isn't, "How are you doing, John?" and "I'm doing wonderful, Bob, how about you?". Dialogue shows emotion and furthers the story, seeming real without being real. If dialogue in books was as fragmented and wandering as real-life conversations are, the story would go nowhere. Dialogue also reveals character. You've probably noticed that most people in the world have a distinct way of speaking—verbal tics, phrases that they often use, or unique dialects or accents. A reader should be able to tell who's speaking even without the help of dialogue tags like Bob said. That's a mark of excellent dialogue. Look for what's in the dialogue when you read it. You should see the story moving. You should see emotion and character through the spoken words. That's what dialogue is.

*Shield9* Plot is another very important thing to every story. Plot, in general, refers to the events that transpire in your story. Plot is the story, and at the same time is inextricable from the characters and the setting in which they move. What happens in the story? Do events and people that are mentioned contribute to the story? Are cliffhangers left hanging? How do you feel when the story has ended, and were most of the dangling threads tied off before the story ended? Tell this to the writer in your review. Were you satisfied with the conclusion? If not, why?

*Shield2* Description, at its very best, paints a world for us. When you look at a story, note its description. Were you always aware of where you were, and some skeletal characteristics of that place? The best description utilizes the senses of smell, taste, hearing, sight and sound to plunge a reader into a universe that they can touch.

*Shield8* Format is, at its most basic, the presentation of the story. Not like plot, though. Format is how sentences are formed, and how punctuation is used. If description, plot, dialogue and format were the furniture in a house, the format would be the house itself, the thing that holds all of the garnishes. This is just as important as everything else. Note dialogue and sentence punctuation. Point out unclear sentences. Since indents don't register here, the {indent} tag should be used, or a story should be double-spaced to give readers a chance to rest their eyes.

         *Star* Title, Description, Beginning and End: Before readers ever click on a story, they usually see its title and read the short description. They are the first things that readers encounter and are thus perhaps one of the most critical things for writers. Did the title and short description drag you in and make you want to read? For stories, the first line is equally important. Attention spans are waning in the modern world, and it's more important than ever to grab readers with an intriguing hook right at the beginning. Were you quickly drawn into the writer's fictional world? If not, how can the writer successfully hook you?

         *Star* Grammar and Mechanics, though I mention them last, are certainly important to any story. They are closely related to format. Many reviewers and readers have informed me that if the grammar in a story is bad enough, they will simply move on without reviewing, sometimes because the process of noting all the errors is tedious. If that is the case... don't. Just don't make note of all the errors. It's not fun for you (unless it is) and it's not good for the writer. Rather, point out patterns of errors. Does the writer consistently punctuate dialogue incorrectly? Is their work littered with passive voice, comma splices, or instances of showing rather than telling? These are patterns. You can point out one or two examples, explain what the problem is and how to avoid it, and inform the writer that there are many examples of this error that they should try to notice on their own. By not pointing out every error, you're enabling the writer to actively seek self-improvement rather than being the passive recipient of a few hundred grammar and punctuation suggestions.

*Bullet* Poetry *Bullet*

*Shield4* Rhyme: if applicable, is an important part to poems. Though many poems do not rhyme and are better for it, rhyming poems should have a consistent rhyme. Even if it's not completely perfect, which cannot be avoided sometimes, it should at least be smooth, and not too distracting. Writers often use off-rhyme or slant-rhyme wonderfully and to great effect, but it's easy to see and helpful to writers to point out where that rhyme doesn't quite fit or a syllable count is off. Some poets are sensitive about their work, because poetry can be interpreted in different ways, but tactfully pointing out problems is usually appreciated.

*Shield1*Flow is a very important part of any poem. The way that the words move through your mind as you read, whether they're smooth and beautiful, or intentionally choppy, indicating a strong emotion, they should not be awkward or distracting. Internal rhyme, alliteration, consonance, assonance, and other poetic devices can be used to improve the flow of the poem. If you see a great example of a poetic device well-used, point it out!

*Shield7* Imagery. Because poetry is short, every single word matters. Is there an excessive amount of weak words and lifeless verbs (I'm looking at you, BE verbs)? If so, tell the poet that the poem could be improved by paying attention to word choice and only choosing strong, evocative words. What images and pictures does the poem paint for you? Are they beautiful, dangerous and turbulent, even thought-provoking? Can they be understood? Imagery can be used wonderfully, but it is often not used to its full potential. Make sure to point out the good things, and not only the bad ones, that you see in poems.

*Shield3* Mood: The emotion portrayed in a poem should be strong and clear. If the emotion is mixed up, unreadable, or weak, it should be strengthened or clarified. The mood of a poem is often created by and inseparable from the imagery, flow, and word choice. Most writers love to hear how their work affected readers. Make sure to tell the author of the poem how it made you feel. They always appreciate knowing that their work is understood, and if it isn't, most of the awesome poets I know are always willing to explain.

*Bullet* Articles and Essays *Bullet*

*Shield7* Topic/Thesis: The topic should be interesting and well-laid-out. The assertion the writer plans to make should be forcasted in their first paragraph with a clear thesis statement that outlines their main idea and major points. The writer should explore all sides of a topic and give clear, logical reasons for their assertions. Did you learn something from the article? Was the main point, or thesis statement, solidly conveyed? Was the backing for whatever argument the author was making solid? Did the piece sway previously concrete opinions?

*Shield8*Clarity: Whatever the topic was, was it clear? Did spelling or grammar mistakes cloud the point? It is vitally important that an article or essay should be easily understood. An essay writer may reference other works to either support their topic or develop their ideas. Citations should be clear and properly formatted according to whatever citation style they are using. If you see clear plagiarism, point it out!

*Shield9*Transitions: Were the transitions between the author's points clear? Did one thought move smoothly to the next? If you see a place where one point or idea could be moved elsewhere to make it more clear or effective, point it out.

*Shield5*Conclusion: A strong beginning is important because it needs to grab readers' eyes. The end is equally important because it's the last impression a reader will have of an essay. Was it weak? We live in a world where people have short attention spans! It's often best for writers to summarize their main ideas at the end to drive the point home. Writers should end with a conclusive statement or a thoughtful observation, but they shouldn't usually introduce new information, because they often don't have time to develop it. When you finished reading, did you understand the writer's point? Were there any threads left hanging, any questions unanswered?

          *Thumbsup* Making Reviewing Painless: *Thumbsup*

So, you know what aspects to consider and how to address the most important aspects of most major item types. You've got a good idea of where to start. What now? Well, reviewing in the genre in which you write is a good place to start, but don't stop there! It benefits all writers to become familiar with many different types. Here are a few miscellaneous pieces of advice to help make reviewing a smoother process.

*Shield6* Read! The more you read, the more you will intuitively understand the content and expectations of stories. If you're a revolutionary or a rule-breaker, you'll understand what rules are in place for you or others to flout. You can come to understand how to evaluate a story. By reading thoughtfully, you can improve your own writing, improve your reviewing, and enjoy yourself, all at the same time. It's not a bad deal.

*Shield5* Look at other reviews. What better way to learn what style you want to employ than by seeing what styles others are using? Visit the Writing.Com Reviewing Page   to see how other writers do it. I've found myself going to the public reviewing page not only to look for good reads but also to check out the latest and greatest reviewing trends. Maybe you can get ideas about how to organize your reviews to make then easy to read and understand. It certainly can't hurt.

*Shield1* Develop a template.. Even the best writers and reviewers are likely to forget things. If you go to the reviewing page and scroll through the most recent reviews, certain ones may catch your eye. Some of the most appealing and well-organized reviews employ a particular template. At the bottom of every item you try to review, you'll notice the link that says, Reviewing Tool. Here, you can create and save templates for any type of item you might be tempted to review. I have templates for stories, poems, articles/essays, and miscellaneous items, and can call them up just by selecting them from the drop-down menu. If you need some time, you can save draft versions of your reviews, as well. Click Here   to see some of my recent public as an example of just one style you can employ in your reviews. Don't be afraid to use WritingML. Of course, don't get too crazy with it, either.

*Shield2* Review. Of course. This one's a no-brainer. The more you read and review, the more comfortable you will become with evaluating other writers' works. Don't be afraid to try. Don't be afraid because a writer is more experienced than you, or a different case color, or older, or any number of things, and never be afraid to give a low rating. I've found it helpful to offer a re-rate if a writer chooses to revise their work.

         *Idea* Good Places to Start Reviewing *Idea*

*Star* "Please Review
*Star* "The Shameless "Plug" Page

I hope that these tips help you in some way! If you have any questions, disagree with my advice, or want a more detailed treatment of any of these issues, please don't hesitate to comment and ask! Despite its solitary nature, writing is ultimately a collaborative process, and it's only through the effort and suggestions of many people that I can make this article better! Thanks for stopping by.
© Copyright 2006 § Roseille ♥ (concrete_angel at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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