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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1340591-Beginners-Guide-to-Review-Templates
Rated: E · Essay · Other · #1340591
The why's and how's of review templates.
Review Templates.


Many reviewers build a template to help them structure and format their reviews. The reasons for doing this are manifold.

*Check1* Often you want to make the same pithy comment in more than one review. Pre-loading it in your template saves time.
*Check1* A template will help to remind you of the elements you want to consider in your review.
*Check1* A review template will help you remember to say nice things to the person being reviewed.


Even if you don't review very much, a template is a useful thing to have. In fact, especially if you don't review very much it can be helpful. It will remind you of the kinds of structural things like plot and character that you want to consider. It will remind of what to say and how to say it. Thinking through a structure for your review template can help you self-review your own work. It is much easier to review other people: their mistakes blaze off the page and just beg for correction. I can read my own work for hours and not see those very same mistakes. Okay, sometimes it takes days, weeks, or months for me to find my own mistakes. Sometimes I never find them. Unless, of course, some kind soul provides a review! Anyway, constructing a template has helped me write better and more consistent reviews, which, in turn, has helped me write better fiction myself.

The purpose of this short note is to provide some examples of what you might put into a template and to help the novice user figure out how to create one.

Finally, this note is peppered with examples drawn from my own personal review template. You will find that template reproduced, in its entirety, at the end of this article.

*Check2* How to create a template.

The menus located in the upper left-hand part of the Writing.Com home page include a pop-up menu called "My Account." One of "your places" that pops up in the sub-menu is "My Review Tool." It's toward the bottom of the long pop-up list. Click on this.

The next thing you will see is a new window called "My Review Tool." Click on the button that says "new." This opens up yet another new window with a place for the name of your template and for the template itself.

In the box labeled "Template Name" type in "My Template" – or whatever you want to name your template. You can have several templates: one for fiction, one for poetry, one for expository writing, and so on.

The big white box underneath is where you can create your template. Type "This is so kewel" into that box.

Press the button at the bottom of the window that says "Preview Template." After a moment you will see what your new template looks like. If you scroll down, you will also see the big white box where you typed "This is so kewel."

Now press the button that says "Store Template." The window should now refresh with a "Success" message at the top. Congratulations! You have created a template!

*Check2* Formatting your template.

Writing.Com includes some built-in tools for formatting text. These tools are called "WritingML." They are little "tags" that you put into your text that result in formats, images, emoticons, or other cool things.1 They are always enclosed in curly braces like this:
{e:smile}

Type the above into your template, right after the sentence "This is so kewel." Don't put a space between the colon and the "smile!" WritingML doesn't like spaces. Next press the "Preview Template" button. In the preview part of the window you will now see
This is so kewel. *Smile*

The Writing.Com web servers will display *Smile* whenever you type "{e:smile}" in the body of your template. This works in email and other places where you can type text.

This is an example of a "WritingML" tag. These are little instructions you can sprinkle, like fairy dust, in your reviews, your emails, in fact almost everywhere you can type text on Writing.Com. When Writing.Com later displays these tags, they are converted to nifty little images, or they change fonts, or do other clever things.

Note that some tags are "one-shot" things. For example, you can type {e:blush} and get *Blush*. But if you want to make something in bold type, then you have to start and stop the tag. So typing
{b} this is in bold{/b} and this is not

gives you
this is in bold and this is not

The "{b}" starts the bold type and the "{/b}" ends it. This same rule applies for colors, font changes, and other tags that have a "scope." The "end of scope" tag always has a forward slash "/" as the first character.

You can find a lot more about WritingML by going back to those same menus on the left-hand side where you found "My Places." Another one of the choices is "Site Tools." The next-to-last site tool is "WritingML Help." If you click on this it will open a new window with instruction on how to use all of the various little "tags" built into Writing.Com.

*Check2* Using Your template.
Using your template is really easy. Pick an item from someone else's portfolio – you can't review one of your own items! At the bottom of the item, where it says "Speak YOUR mind and rate it! - Rate This Item!" you will see "Review Tool" on the right-hand side. Click on that. This opens up a new window.

The new window says at the top what you are currently reviewing. It lets you "load" a template. Right now the only one you have is the simple one we just created. Just to the left of the "load" button is a drop down menu. From that menu select your newly created template. Now when you click "load" you will see the text from your template pre-loaded into the big white box.

You're now ready to start writing your review. But don't do that yet! We haven't created a useful template yet! Later, when you have created your template, you can use this window to load your template, write and submit your review.

If you scroll all the way to the bottom, you will see buttons for "preview this review" and "submit this review." The former button lets you see what your review will look like so you can proofread it before sending it. Once you are happy with how it looks, you can press "Submit this review" and, presto! Your review with all the formatting you've put in is transmitted to the author!

Don't forget to assign a "rating" as well. In fact, Writing.Com generally won't let you submit a review without rating. The rating drop-down menu is right above where you type in your review and to left of where you select and load your template. I would personally also encourage posting your review publicly for others to see. This helps build community and earns you "mojo" on the system!

*Check2* Some template ideas.

*Check3* Introduce yourself. It is always nice to say "hello" and perhaps explain how you found this item and why you selected it to review. My reviews start with this boilerplate:

{e:smile}{c:blue} Hi, this is Bill, the MathGuy. I liked your story and wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.{/c}

which displays as

*Smile* Hi, this is Bill, the MathGuy. I liked your story and wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.

I will often edit this, adding where I found the item for example, but this is a good start.

Next comes a list of things that I almost always consider in my reviews.

{e:check3}{b}{c:green}General Impressions {/b}{/c}
{e:check3}{b}{c:green}Favorite Parts {/b}{/c}
{e:check3}{b}{c:green}Characters {/b}{/c}
{e:check3}{b}{c:green}Plot {/b}{/c}
{e:check3}{b}{c:green}Setting {/b}{/c}
{e:check3}{b}{c:green}Dialog {/b}{/c}

which display as

*Check3*General Impressions
*Check3*Favorite Parts
*Check3*Characters
*Check3*Plot
*Check3*Setting
*Check3*Dialog

I'll make some general comments on these next.

*Check3* General Impressions.
Give your overview and general impressions of the work. This is a good place to praise what the author did well. There is plenty of opportunity later to help the author improve.

*Check3* Favorite Parts.
This is to remind yourself to start and end your review with favorable comments. You can always find something nice to say, even if you have to hunt a bit. Always remember that the author can't hear your gentle tone of voice or see your smile; all the author can see is what you have written. So be sure to begin and end your review with words that will encourage the author to keep writing.

I will often directly quote from the author's piece to reinforce what they are doing well. I put the following code into my template to remind me to do this:

{quote}
{c:green}{e:cut} QUOTE HERE {e:cut}{/c}
{/quote}

Then I can replace the "QUOTE HERE" with the material from the author's work that I want to highlight. In the actual review that the author sees, this little bit will appear as

*Cut* You will paste the author's beautiful words here instead of QUOTE HERE. *Cut*


I generally am commenting on fiction, so I prompt myself with the following additional headings.
*Check3* Characters.
*Check3* Plot.
*Check3* Setting.
*Check3* Dialog.
You might use different ones. If a heading doesn't fit with an item, I just delete it from that particular review. Just because I pre-loaded it doesn't mean I have to use it!

The next thing you might want to include are any suggestions you may have to make this piece better. For a transition, I include the following:
{e:star}
{c:blue}My reviews always have suggestions for improvement. Please know that they are offered in the spirit of making this fine piece even better.{e:smile} {/c}

Which appears in the review as
*Star*
My reviews always have suggestions for improvement. Please know that they are offered in the spirit of making this fine piece even better.*Smile*


After this I stick in some general comments that I seem to repeat in reviews. Putting them in my template means that I don't have to retype them all the time. For example, I use this one a lot:

{e:exclaim} {b}Adverbs.{/b}{e:exclaim} You don't overuse adverbs, but they show up enough to be worth a comment. You know what Stephen King says about {popnote:"adverbs"}The road to hell is paved with adverbs.{/popnote}. I think he is correct. Adverbs are often a shorthand in which the author falls into "telling" rather than "showing." I try to use zero adverbs, since otherwise I'd sprinkle them all over the place like fairy dust. {e:rolleyes}

Which appears in my review as
*Exclaim* Adverbs.*Exclaim* You don't overuse adverbs, but they show up enough to be worth a comment. You know what Stephen King says about adverbs . I think he is correct. Adverbs are often a shorthand in which the author falls into "telling" rather than "showing." I try to use zero adverbs, since otherwise I'd sprinkle them all over the place like fairy dust. *Rolleyes*


You may have other standard comments or quotes that you want to include. If they don't apply to the work you are reviewing, you can just delete them.

In my reviews I don't try to copy-edit the author's prose, but if I find mistakes I will try to point them out. In fact, I try to not "correct" an author. Teaching is always superior to correcting. So, if I see a spelling or punctuation error recurring, I'll put in one example and let the author learn from that. Before I start this section, I include a transitional statement:
Some line-by-line comments follow, some trivial and some with more substance.

and then in several copies of the following:
{e:bullet}{c:lblue} {b}Your text:{/b}{/c}
{c:green}{e:cut} QUOTE HERE {e:cut}{/c}
{e:idea}{c:orange} {b}My Comment:{/b}{/c}
{e:idea}{e:paste}{c:orange} COMMENT HERE {e:paste}{e:idea}{/c}

which will display in the review as
*Bullet* Your text:
*Cut* QUOTE HERE *Cut*
*Idea* My Comment:
*Idea**Paste* COMMENT HERE *Paste**Idea*


Sometimes I just can't help myself and actually suggest a specific wording change for the author. For example, if the author constantly uses passive voice, I'll show them one example using active voice. Generally I'd rather find an example from their own prose but sometimes it is easier on me to just re-write one sentence. Anyway, the "COMMENT HERE" between the *Paste* emoticons is there in case I want to propose a specific re-write. Usually, though, I make a narrative comment right after where it says "*Idea* My Comment:" and the "COMMENT HERE" line gets deleted. It is very tempting to re-write for the author but I personally think this is almost always a bad idea. In the first place, it is highly presumptuous to re-write someone else's work. In the second place, re-writing violates my earlier maxim of "teaching" as opposed to "correcting."

*Check3* Disclaimer.
For sure I don't know everything about writing. In fact, I don't know much of anything about writing. Whatever I put in a review may have missed the whole point of what an author was trying to do. In any case it is just one person's opinion. So my template includes a disclaimer that says these things.
{e:exclaim} {c:red} Please remember that you are best judge of what is right for your story! Whatever another person says -- especially me! -- whether positive or negative, is just {i}their{/i} opinion! You are the only one who can decide what is right for your story. {/c}{e:exclaim}

which displays in the review as
*Exclaim* Please remember that you are best judge of what is right for your story! Whatever another person says -- especially me! -- whether positive or negative, is just their opinion! You are the only one who can decide what is right for your story. *Exclaim*

I always put in this disclaimer, even if it is seems obvious I actually do know more than the author. Even though I'm really brilliant -- I wish!-- it's always best to be humble and respectful; further, this will help remove any residual sting from your suggestions.

*Check3* Closing.
Bid your author adieu with encouraging words. By putting this into my template, it assures that I'll always remember to close my reviews with positive comments.
Thanks for sharing this item! I only review things that I enjoy reading and I truly did enjoy this piece. Please keep on writing more things just like this!!!


*Check3* Sign your review.
I'm big on including your signature and a link back you your portfolio. If you put in
{user:mathguy}

the review will show

But be sure to use your username, not mine! That way if authors want to return the favor of your review, they have a way to go immediately to your portfolio.

I hope that reviewers will find these comments useful. Again, I've included at the end of this document my entire template. Feel free to use any parts of it that strike your fancy.

With that, I'll bid you adieu!

Max Griffin πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ


*******************************************************************************************
******** MAX'S WRITINGML TEMPLATE *********
******** I play with this periodically. This is the most recent version. *********
******** My current template links to my author website rather than my WDC portfolio. *********
*********4/21/2010
*********My current template is below, first formatted by WritingML and then with the WritingML Code
*******************************************************************************************
********** FORMATTED TEMPLATE
*******************************************************************************************
*Smile* Hi, my name is Max. I found your story in the review request page. I enjoyed reading it and wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.
__________
Item Reviewed: "Invalid Item
Entry Reviewed: {entry:####}
Author {user:####}
Reviewer: Max Griffin πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ
__________
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful *Smile*, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. *Heart* My reviews always have suggestions for improvement. Please know that they are offered in the spirit of making this fine piece even better.*Smile*

__________
*Check2*Plot

__________
*Check2*Style and Voice

__________
*Check2*Referencing

__________
*Check2*Scene/Setting

__________
*Check2*Characters

*Exclaim* Dialog.*Exclaim* This is a great way to move the plot forward and to add depth to characters.

*Exclaim* Contractions.*Exclaim* People use contractions in normal speech, so, for verisimilitude, we should include contractions in our dialog.

__________
*Check2*Grammar
*Exclaim* Comma Splices.*Exclaim*
A comma splice occurs when you have two complete sentences joined by a comma where a period or semicolon should be used. I've marked one or more of these in the line-by-line comments below.

*Exclaim* Commas.*Exclaim*
I thought I saw some comma errors. I'm terrible with commas, so I won't try to point them out. Instead, here's a great reference:
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_comma.html
I've read it, and they're still a mystery to me. I hope it helps!

*Exclaim* Adverbs.*Exclaim* You don't overuse adverbs, but they show up enough to be worth a comment. You know what Stephen King says about adverbs . I think he is correct. Adverbs are often a shorthand in which the author falls into "telling" rather than "showing." I try to use zero adverbs, since otherwise I'd sprinkle them all over the place like fairy dust. *Rolleyes* I've marked one or more places in the line-by-line comments below where I think you might consider a more precise verb or a touch more description rather than an adverb.

__________
*Check2*Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story. I've written on these ideas more extensively in
STATIC
Long Musings on Short Stories  (E)
Some random thoughts on writing short stories.
#1537812 by Max Griffin πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ

In any case, I mention the above to provide context to some of the comments in the line-by-line remarks below.



__________
*Check2*Line-by-line Comments
Some line-by-line comments follow, some trivial and some with more substance.
Your text is in BLUE.
My comments are in RED.
If I have a suggested re-working, it's in GREEN.
__________

/////////////////////

__________

I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. *Frown* Since I'm reviewing for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. *Smile*


*Exclaim* Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse! *Exclaim*

Thanks for sharing this item! I only review things that I enjoy reading and I truly did enjoy this piece. Please keep on writing more things just like this!!!

Max Griffin
http://members.cox.net/maxgriffin/
Check out my essay on short stories at "Long Musings on Short Stories.

Do you want an in-depth review?  (E)
This Forum is now inactive.
#1412700 by Max Griffin πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ



Titles available at http://www.loveyoudivine.com/
Cover for Lindermont Lovers Cover for the novella, "The Ascension."



*******************************************************************************************
********** WRITINGMLCODE FOR ABOVE TEMPLATE
*******************************************************************************************



{e:smile}{c:blue} Hi, my name is Max. I found your story in the review request page. I enjoyed reading it and wanted to share some thoughts with you about it.{/c}
{b}__________{/b}
{b}Item Reviewed:{/b} {item:####}
{b}Entry Reviewed:{/b} {entry:####}
{b}Author{/b} {user:####}
{b}Reviewer:{/b} {user:mathguy}
{b}__________{/b}
{b}{c:blue}As always, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful {e:smile}, and that you will discard the rest with good cheer. {e:heart} My reviews always have suggestions for improvement. Please know that they are offered in the spirit of making this fine piece even better.{e:smile} {/c}{/b}

{b}__________{/b}
{e:check2}{b}{c:red}Plot{/c}{/b}

{b}__________{/b}
{e:check2}{b}{c:red}Style and Voice{/c}{/b}

{b}__________{/b}
{e:check2}{b}{c:red}Referencing{/c}{/b}

{b}__________{/b}
{e:check2}{b}{c:red}Scene/Setting{/c}{/b}

{b}__________{/b}
{e:check2}{b}{c:red}Characters{/c}{/b}

{e:exclaim} {b}Dialog.{/b}{e:exclaim} This is a great way to move the plot forward and to add depth to characters.

{e:exclaim} {b}Contractions.{/b}{e:exclaim} People use contractions in normal speech, so, for verisimilitude, we should include contractions in our dialog.

{b}__________{/b}
{e:check2}{b}{c:red}Grammar{/c}{/b}
{e:exclaim} {b}Comma Splices.{/b}{e:exclaim}
A comma splice occurs when you have two complete sentences joined by a comma where a period or semicolon should be used. I've marked one or more of these in the line-by-line comments below.

{e:exclaim} {b}Commas.{/b}{e:exclaim}
I thought I saw some comma errors. I'm terrible with commas, so I won't try to point them out. Instead, here's a great reference:
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_comma.html
I've read it, and they're still a mystery to me. I hope it helps!

{e:exclaim} {b}Adverbs.{/b}{e:exclaim} You don't overuse adverbs, but they show up enough to be worth a comment. You know what Stephen King says about {popnote:"adverbs"}The road to hell is paved with adverbs.{/popnote}. I think he is correct. Adverbs are often a shorthand in which the author falls into "telling" rather than "showing." I try to use zero adverbs, since otherwise I'd sprinkle them all over the place like fairy dust. {e:rolleyes} I've marked one or more places in the line-by-line comments below where I think you might consider a more precise verb or a touch more description rather than an adverb.

{b}__________{/b}
{e:check2}{b}{c:red}Just my personal opinion{/c}{/b}
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a {b}{i}guided dream{/i}{/b} in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story. I've written on these ideas more extensively in
{bitem:1537812}
In any case, I mention the above to provide context to some of the comments in the line-by-line remarks below.



{b}__________{/b}
{e:check2}{b}{c:red}Line-by-line Comments{/c}{/b}
{c:blue}Some line-by-line comments follow, some trivial and some with more substance.{/c}
Your text is in {b}{c:blue}BLUE.{/c}{/b}
My comments are in {b}{c:red}RED.{/c}{/b}
If I have a suggested re-working, it's in {b}{c:green}GREEN.{/c}{/b}
{b}__________{/b}

/////////////////////

{b}__________{/b}
{c:green}
I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. {e:frown} Since I'm reviewing for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it. {e:smile}{/c}

{e:exclaim} {b}{c:blue}Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse! {/c}{/b}{e:exclaim}

{c:blue}Thanks for sharing this item! I only review things that I enjoy reading and I truly did enjoy this piece. Please keep on writing more things just like this!!!{/c}

{b}Max Griffin{/b}
http://members.cox.net/maxgriffin/
Check out my essay on short stories at {item:1537812}.

{bitem:1412700}

{center}
Titles available at http://www.loveyoudivine.com/
{image:1558330} {Image:1515989}

{/center}


Footnotes
1  The "ML" in "WritingML" stands for "Markup Language," which is similar to the blue "markup" notes that an editor puts on copy. The editor uses these as instructions to the typesetter on formatting -- things like font, spacing, and so on. On web pages, these formatting instructions are automated with "Hyper-Text Markup Language" or HTML. WDC uses their own version of HTML, called WritingML.

© Copyright 2007 Max Griffin πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ (mathguy at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
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