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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1065724
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 Messenger, in replies, in emails...people of every age, case color, and level of writing experience have told me that they can not compose an in-depth review. It can be tough, but when you take it in steps, a lot of the difficulty of writing a thorough review 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.

*Star* Remember, reviewing will help not only the person receiving the review also but the person sending it. In critically examining the works of other authors, reviewers gain insight into their own writing and an ability to look at it objectively with a critical eye.


          *Thumbsup* The Three Most Important Things to Consider When Composing a Review: *Thumbsup*

*Bullet* Be Positive. Whether you think the story was written when a cat rolled repeatedly across a keyboard or whether you find it 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. 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. Let the writer know what made you smile, or gasp, or jump in joy or fright. Let them know what moved you. There are few things a writer loves more than knowing that their words reached someone. Even if you found a story particularly difficult to engage with, review kindly and with consideration.

*Bullet* Be Honest. If you think the story deserves a 3.0 rating, give it that! Do not lie to be gentle. The first review I received on this site as a bright-eyed 14-year-old was a 3.5. I remember it to this day. It was an honest, lengthy, encouraging review with ample suggestions for improvement. I was over the moon to be treated like someone whose words deserved that sort of consideration and care. So don't feel obligated to inflate a rating or lie if you ran into problems with character development, grammar, clarity, or pacing (you get the idea) that hindered your enjoyment of a story. Even if you barely made it to the final word intact, be honest and considerate. We can all improve. This site and the amazing members here have proven that over and over. Rate honestly, but do it kindly.

*Bullet* Be (Constructively) Critical. There is a difference between critique and cruelty, and if writers have joined WDC and have posted their items for feedback, you can assume they will be able to distinguish between the two. 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 world and make them care about your characters. Be careful not to confuse personal offense for constructive criticism. We may encounter stories, poems, or articles with themes we do not agree with or are not personally invested in. If a work violates the community guidelines, that's one thing, but WDC is a website with an incredibly diverse user base. The one thing we all have in common? We are all here to polish the craft of writing.


         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.



*Bullet* Uh, Wait. I Scrolled A Bit, And... This Is All Too Intense For Me. *Bullet*


         That's okay! You know what? If detailed reviews aren't your thing, feel free to seek your own style. Those three things above still apply, of course, but if, for whatever reason, you don't feel qualified or confident enough to give a detailed review, please know that you still have much to offer! Proofreading and grammatical insight are one thing, but they don't always make the bells of joy ring out in the streets for a writer, you know? Getting told to keep an eye out for passive voice or to be careful not to mix up their, they're, and there doesn't really get the blood pumping.

         I'm going to say something most writers already know in their hearts: detailed critique from fellow wordsmiths can be awesome, but we are not only writers. We are all readers, as well. There's a very special sort of pleasure in getting a review from the perspective of a reader.

         In fact, they're often some of the most wonderful to receive. Even something as simple as, "I actually screamed at my computer when Bob walked into that trap! It was so tense!" can make a writer's day. We all want to use words effectively, but stories are not only style. Stories exist to paint a world. You don't have to be able to identify or explain passive voice or predicate adjectives or nonessential relative clauses to be a breathtakingly excellent reviewer. You just have to review as a reader.


                    *Star* How To Review As a Reader: *Star*

*Bullet* Don't Stress! Your review doesn't have to be long to be good. It just has to be honest, positive, and constructive.

*Bullet* Let writers know what parts of the story worked! Tell them what made you smile or cry or laugh or yell! What succeeded in rousing your emotions? Was the story a romance that really made you feel warm and fuzzy? A thriller that succeeded in keeping you on the edge of your seat? Were you biting your nails while you read? Did you have to get up and pace a bit before returning to the story? Did a particularly deft mystery keep you guessing right until the final line? If a story successfully roused emotion in you, feel free to let the writer know!

*Bullet* In the same way, let them know which parts fell flat, or went on a bit too long to keep your attention. Did you guess the mystery way too early? Was it a bit hard to stay engaged because the main character was too unlikable? Did the romance seem a little flimsy? Did that one scene seem a little too coincidental? Do you work in a field about which a certain story is written and have the ability to point out inaccuracies?


         Take advantage of all the things you can offer as a reader!

         Anyway, the folks out there with a particular affinity for grammar or the nitty gritties of the craft of writing can use this method, too, but there are plenty of other things to consider if you want to construct an in-depth review.


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

         Poems, short stories, essays, and articles are relatively common sorts of writing on this website. This section is to familiarize reviewers with the aspects of these item types and, perhaps, enable them to craft thoughtful reviews, which brings us to...


*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 cheer for 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, or at least an impression. If, for whatever reason, they don't, look for places where a writer can change that. Was Larry flat because the author said he loved his wife, but we as readers had no reasons to believe it? Let the writer know. If you find yourself disliking a character or disinterested in his story, feel free to share that, but do be aware that opinions of characters are subjective.

*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 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. In contrast, if you find yourself having trouble understanding who's talking, that's worth mentioning.

*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? There are sometimes situations where the plot seems to move the characters, rather than the characters moving the plot. If you think the main characters really wouldn't go on that dangerous quest because they all have good lives and families and seem level-headed and just aren't the types of people to throw themselves into the GAPING MAW OF INEVITABLE DEATH, that could very well be a case of the plot trying to manipulate characters rather than characters organically advancing the plot.

*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 they can experience. However, in certain places—fights or very tense scenes—excessive description can make the plot drag. In fact, something as having too many really long sentences can affect the mood! Description has a place, but there are places where it can be inappropriate or excessive. If a writer spent 600 words describing a tree in a story that wasn't even about a tree, it's worth pointing out.

*Shield8* Format is, at its most basic, the presentation of the story. 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. It's the simple things, sometimes. Even the most excellent story might remain unread if it's a miles long brick of uninterrupted text. Also consider...

         *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, in which case, go for it!) and it may make for a lazy writer if you point out every single error. 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! If you're a diligent student of meter and a lover of iambic pentameter and find great joy in talking about stressed and unstressed syllables, go for it! If not, feel free to review as a reader. Did it flow smoothly for you? Were there any parts you found confusing?

*Shield7* Imagery and Word Choice. 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 writer should (ideally) include a clear thesis statement that outlines their main idea and major point in the first paragraph. Writers should also explore all sides of a topic and offer clear, logical support 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 and thorough? Did the piece sway previously concrete opinions?

*Shield8*Clarity: Whatever the topic was, was it clear? Did spelling or grammar mistakes cloud the point? Essays must be concise and clear. A 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! Many writers—and I say this from the perspective of a tired writing tutor who has experienced it many times—simply don't realize what they are doing is plagiarism. Even stealing five consecutive words from a published article or Wikipedia page (or any website) is plagiarism if the quotation is not cited. Often, these small citations look something like, Jacob Wright, in his incisive review of "The Heart," calls the climax, "unexpectedly thrilling, like that moment when you accidentally eat a cinnamon jelly bean!" (24). The author is credited, the quote is encased in quotation marks, and the page number (if applicable) is cited. Again, different citation styles have different rules, but if you're familiar with any of them, feel free to tell the writer how they can properly credit their sources.

*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. By reading thoughtfully, you can improve your 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 reviews as an example of just one style you can employ. 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.



*Bullet* Uh, Wait. I still don't want to review! *Bullet*


         That's also okay! There are many other things to do on the website. If you don't want to review or are unable to for any reason, there are other ways to support it, if you want. Remember that Writing.Com Reviewing Page   I mentioned? If you happen to have a few Gift Points and see reviews you admire, you can encourage the people who send reviews by using the "credit this reviewer" option. You'll find it to the upper right side of every review, and can give rewards as small as 25 GPs. Rewarding a reviewer doesn't entitle you to receive reviews from them or entail any other special rewards, but if you have a spare moment and a desire to support the writers who are out there reviewing, crediting a reviewer is a bit like giving him or her a high five and saying, "I see what you're doing and appreciate you!"



*Bullet* Review On! *Bullet*
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