Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Writing Life: How to Write a Review by JJ Murphy

Reviews are written to evaluate a book, movie, event or object. Unlike a summary, the review writer has an opinion or makes a case for the material reviewed.

As a review writer, you have some latitude in the tone, style and subject matter of your piece.

Here are rules to help your reader follow your train of thought.

1. Begin with a summary. Let the reader know what you are writing about by describing your topic, setting perspective and establishing your argument or point of view.

2. Take a stand. Your writing must offer a critical assessment. What is important about this work? What is the main idea the creator wants you to get from the work? Did the content persuade you or increase your understanding of the issues addressed?

3. Make careful observations. People who read reviews are often looking to find out whether they should invest the time reading the work or attending the event reviewed. Does the creation represent a particular genre or style? Does it conform to or depart from the conventions of that style or genre? Is the subject of the work covered in a complete and balanced way? Is the approach chronological, topical or analytical? You do not have to be an expert, just a likely member of a target audience the creator of the work hopes to reach.

4. Take a stand. Reviews are for expressing your opinion or point of view. Readers expect more than a summary of the work. You will be more effective when you stick to the summary of what the work is, as opposed to what you hoped or expected the work to be.

5. Back up your opinions. How you voice your praise, criticism, agreement or disagreement depends on the specific examples or evidence from the work you choose to support your observations. How does the creator of the work relate to the creation? Is this a scholarly presentation, a work of fiction or a memoir? Does the creator's knowledge, skill or personal background impact the content of the work?

Once you've gathered your notes, it is helpful to present them in an easy-to-follow format.

Here is one way to write a review:

Book Review Format Template

Title of Document: Book Review
Book Title:
ISBN Number:
Genre and Target Market:
Publication Date:
Book Length in Pages:
Paperback or Hardcover
Rating on a scale of 1 to 5 points:
Headline Title or Hook:
Word count: Mini-reviews are approximately 500; Normal reviews are approximately750 words

Body of Review using the points listed above

Reviewer Byline ______

Your credibility is enhanced when your reviews are a blend of balanced opinion and concrete example. If you offer your reader an idea of what the creator intends to share and a recommendation of whether or not to experience the work, you will have reached your goal as a review writer.

Platinum Level Expert Author for , JJ Murphy, offers creative nature curriculum, wild food recipes, fiction, poetry, articles and writing services for individuals, entrepreneurs, small businesses and ecologically aware companies. Visit for samples of her work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting such great information on how to write a good book review.

I have several book review sites and would love to have individuals reading and writing for me following these instructions!