Ways you can write a review that increase your credibility.
|Issue #50 of the Writing.com Reviewing Newsletter.
Your Guest Editor is NickiD89
[Table of Contents]
1. About this Newsletter
2. Letter from the Editor
3. Editor's Picks
4. Ask and Answer
5. Helpful Links
[About this Newsletter]
A skilled reviewer takes every opportunity to boost his or her credibility when offering feedback. It is true that an inherent authority is enjoyed by all Writing.com reviewers; after all, the majority of us are creative writers. By virtue of our shared passion for story telling, we consider ourselves qualified to offer important feedback to our peers in the spirit of helping them improve their craft. When that feedback includes comments pointing out places where the writing is weak, the reviewer must understand the direct relationship between his or her credibility and the writer’s acceptance of those critical comments.
[Letter from the Editor]
Writing.com created the hierarchical system of case colors to distinguish members recognized for their creative talent and community support. But case color doesn’t tell the whole story about a member’s credibility as a reviewer. Whether you are a registered author or a moderator, a preferred author or a senior moderator, your review itself will convey to the writer the most concrete evidence of your capacity to evaluate his or her work.
There are two aspects of a review where you can boost your credibility: Content and Appearance. By focusing on the following points and integrating these suggestions, your reviews will carry more weight and your critical feedback may be as easily accepted as your praising comments.
1. Content – Capitalize on opportunities to boost your credibility with the way you present your feedback:
The Language You Use
The most successful reviews are written with a professional tone that is both supportive and non-judgmental. A skilled reviewer never uses critical or reproachful language when pointing out weaknesses, and avoids words that carry heavy undertones. For example, never call a plot or character “boring”; instead discuss the lack of tension in rising action, or point out that vivid, ‘showing’ characterization would bring that character to life. By delivering negative feedback via a professional discussion of the work, your comments come across as courteous and the writer is more likely to accept your criticism in the supportive spirit it was offered.
Respect the Author’s Voice/Style
"Voice is like verbal fingerprints that a writer imprints on the page. It is a mix of individuality, confidence, engagement with the topic, and reader rapport, and something that keeps the reader reading." 1 It is helpful to notice the stylistic choices the writer made when you are evaluating his/her work. Some authors, for example, write dialogue-driven work; others use flowery descriptions. You may come across writers who employ intellectual vocabulary, and others who rely heavily on metaphor and simile.
You may read a story and not connect with the author’s voice or style. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the writing is weak. If you are put off by the style, genre, or even the topic of a story, your review must remain respectful of the author. This is particularly true if you offer suggestions for improvement. If you point out an excerpt you feel could be stronger if rewritten, be sure your suggestion does not stray from the author’s style. Otherwise, your comment may be met with resistance and you could lose credibility with the author.
Use Specific Examples to Illustrate Your Comments
You may feel, for example, there was too much telling characterization and not enough showing in a story. That comment by itself will convey your negative feedback. However, if you go the extra step and copy a short excerpt from the story and paste it into the review, you direct the writer to a specific instance that illustrates your point. (You may choose to highlight the copied text by using a colored font or boldface.) This lends the opportunity to offer suggestions for improvement based on the example you are working with, which the writer can then use as a model for strengthening other places in the work. Remember, copying and pasting too much will have the opposite effect and undermine your credibility.
Verify Your Facts
Negative feedback often arises when a reviewer notices mechanical mistakes in the areas of grammar, capitalization, and punctuation. Pointing out these errors helps the writer tighten up his story, and can shed light on the rules of the language that the writer may have forgotten or never learned. It is critical that you be certain of the correction you are making! You will lose credibility quickly when you try to fix something that isn’t broken.
I realized when I began writing and reviewing that I’d forgotten many grammatical rules, everything from when to use a semi-colon to when to use “who” and “whom.” So I came up with a system to help cross-check my editorial corrections. I created a page in my WDC NotePad, and on it I began a list of links to web pages that prove helpful when I have these kinds of questions. The NotePad is easily accessible and now when I review I have these resources at my fingertips.
Please take a look at my current list offered here, and notice that below I have generated the same list in WritingML code. Anyone interested in putting this list into their NotePad can easily copy and paste from here. :
Here is the same list in WritingML code for your copy and paste convenience :
In addition to the above off-site links, here is a short list of some great articles by WDC authors you can put in your Favorites and refer to often:
"Kiya's Big Book of Writing Guidelines"
"Comma: Punctuation That Works Overtime"
And just for fun -- here's a little punctuation quiz:
2. Appearance – The author’s first impression of your review is gleaned from the review's appearance, and the writer may form an idea of you the moment s/he sees it. Appearance counts where your credibility is concerned.
Use the Review Tool
If you want your review to be organized and easy to read, you should consider using the Review Tool. The many advantages to using templates include time saved from having to retype the same heading information for every review, and different templates can be created to suite the different genres you regularly review. The review tool gives your review a polished look which boosts your credibility as a reviewer.
Keep WritingML to a Minimum
A professional look conveys to the writer that you take yourself and your review practice seriously. Avoid excessive emoticons, colored fonts, and long lists of signatures/links in your review, as these distract from your comments and throw your credibility into questionable light.
ALWAYS Spell-check and Preview Your Review
When you have spent time reading and evaluating a story, and have carefully articulated the feedback in professional, encouraging language, you have still not done everything possible to ensure your credibility is sound. Always spell-check your review, because a writer will be less likely to accept your criticism if your review is riddled with misspell words. And, as we all know, spell-check doesn’t flag typos if they are correctly spelled words. It is imperative that you also click “Preview” to be sure there are no typos and no missing WritingML end tags. A review is hard to read (and to take seriously) when two-thirds is accidently italicized.
Your credibility as a reviewer is ultimately important to the writer whose work you are evaluating. By taking care to present your feedback in a professional manner, maintaining respect for the writer, with accurate information and free of typographical errors, your review will speak volumes about your integrity as a reviewer. The writer will be more likely to listen to your feedback assured that you are knowledgeable, that your opinion is trustworthy, and that your intentions are to help him improve his story, and his craft.
[Ask & Answer]
I would love to hear what you think about this topic. Please review this newsletter or send me an email!
If you are interested in receiving future issues of the Reviewing News and Views newsletter, click here "Reviewing News and Views" or contact Elisa the Vaccinated Stik
"How To Write an Encouraging Review"