This begs the question of how to write an appropriate review. Unfortunately, there is no universally agreed-upon set of rules. What one person advocates, another dismisses. What one reviewer says to never do, the next one does. Since the “experts” don’t agree and the reviewers are inconsistent, I’ve formulated my own guidelines as I’ve journeyed down this path:
- Don’t spoil the ending; doing so is unprofessional and just plain mean.
- Don’t be snarky—unless that’s really who you are and how you want to be known.
- Don’t be overly critical or condemning; though it is appropriate to point out serious limitations or significant problems.
- Don’t let your words become more important than your subject. If your writing overshadows the work you are reviewing, then you are no longer serving your audience, but arrogantly promoting yourself.
- Remember that it’s not a school report or a formal abstract.
- Using a quote, maybe two is okay, but too many make your review sound like a homework assignment.
- Give the “artists” (writers, actors, directors, etc.) the same respect and sensitivity you would desire if they were reviewing your work.
- Let your voice be heard.
- Above all, be honest, fair, and balanced. It’s wrong for a reviewer’s bias to cause the reader to skip a work they would have enjoyed or to invest in a shoddy work that was oversold.
Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!