Advantages It tells you how to write VH Book, Movie, or Game reviews... and how to write really BAD ones, too :-)
Disadvantages Doesn't tell you anything else!
WARNING ONE - this is an amalgam of not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR advice guides I wrote for Epinions a while ago. They're a little abridged but it's still pretty long.WARNING TWO - this is most useful if you write (or plan to write) BOOK, MOVIE, or GAME reviews. If you don't… then it is far less helpful!!
If you are not dissuaded from continuing by those warnings, please read on…
The last part of this guide was written in a desperate attempt to understand just how some people were able to write such appallingly bad reviews - so I named it "How to write a really, really BAD review". As with the other guides, it was written for Epinions but the principles apply equally to Ciao (or Dooyoo - or any other reviews website for that matter!)
This covers how to write a VERY HELPFUL Book, Movie, or Game review. Between the three I've written over 200 reviews now so I'm fairly well up on what makes a good review in those categories - I hope! (I'm currently a Top Reviewer on Epinions in both the Book and Movie categories, as well as a Moderator on the Movie message board and Advisor for Books.) These guides are obviously aimed at newer reviewers, so if you're an old hand (or possibly an old foot), don't expect any mind-blowing information here!
Well, I hope you enjoy the Guides and even find them useful! :-D
The first thing that should be noted is that completely different reviewing styles are needed for Fiction and Non Fiction reviews, and I'll break each one down into its component parts. I have written many fiction reviews but only one non-fiction review - however I've seen enough of the latter (both good and bad) to know what I'm talking about here.
While even I have once or twice been accused of revealing "Spoilers", most of the time people seem to like the method I've adopted and feel that I let them know an appropriate amount of the plot. Basically I adopt the same principle as I do when writing movies - give a relatively detailed description of the opening situation, and trail off with a few vague sentences about what happens / what might happen as the story progresses. Try not to reveal any major plot events unless they're alluded to in the blurb on the back of the book - you can hardly be accused of giving away too much if you could read the same on the back cover of the book. (Then again I've seen reviews that don't tell you anything more than is on the back cover / in the forward, and has basically no analysis of the book - which is "Somewhat Helpful" at best…)Another thing to consider when analysing the plot is the pacing. It might be an interesting plot, but does it move fast enough to stay interesting? Or slowly enough for you to keep up with what's going on? Is it so complex and has so many characters that you frequently find yourself turning back to remind yourself who's who and what's going on? These are the sorts of thing a potential reader will want to know.
If you have difficulty writing about characterisation, try using the following questions as a rough guide:Can I identify with this character?
I'll do my best with this part, but I've not exactly had much experience of writing non-fiction reviews! However, I've READ a lot of them… so here goes…
Who is the book aimed at, and who would it be useful, and who might it be of interest to? The first part of the question is more important for professional publications such as scientific / medical textbooks etc, while the latter gains importance for more general-interest reference works that are not aimed at a specific profession.
For professional reference works (particularly dictionaries and encyclopaedias), layout is extremely import. Is it clear? Can you find what you want quickly?
What style is the book? Does it give general or specific information on the subject? Is it biased - does it put across the author/s' opinion rather than simply state the facts? Is the argumentation used convincing?
The kind of language used is also important - and also the reason why such language is used. Some scientific / philosophical works that use highly convoluted or sophisticated language give the distinct impression that the author is simply try to make himself / herself look clever. Others do so because that form of language is familiar and normal to them, and they're not writing this book for a layman. It's important to identify, not only who would be interested in reading a particular book about a subject, but who would be able to read it.
Assuming there is an index and / or glossary, how comprehensive and easy to use is it? Is there anything that could be better?
Going into extensive detail about every aspect the book covers is not necessary, but at least an overview of what the book sets out to achieve should be included in your review. Listing the chapter headings is also a good way of providing information about what subjects the book covers without delving into unnecessary detail.
Illustrations / Diagrams / Photography
Recommended ReviewersSo far on my time at Ciao, the book reviewer who has really impressed me has been ColonelJohn - check out some of his reviews to see how it's done!
Guide to Writing a Very Helpful MOVIE Review
Writing style and personal taste not withstanding, this is a brief guide to what should be in your movie review to make it Very Helpful.
Some members make the mistake of relating practically the whole plot, and often an otherwise very good review gets rated "Helpful" or even "Somewhat Helpful" because of this. Other reviews contain no plot details at all and suffer the same fate. Generally, what is needed is a brief plot synopsis - usually I find the best method is to give the opening scenario in a relatively detailed way, then a couple of vague questions / phrases that suggest what happens throughout the film without giving anything of note away. (Don't forget, no matter how well known the film is you're reviewing, there will still be some people that have never seen it!) If you feel you must give away key aspects of the plot, always give a spoiler warning beforehand - but in general, avoid giving away important plot details that aren't made obvious in the first quarter of an hour of the film.
How detailed you are in your evaluation of the cast is up to you, but always include at least some analysis of the performances by the key cast members. Including other films the actor / actress has been in by putting them in parentheses after their names is a good idea at times (particularly with less well known thespians), but avoid having a review that is one long name-dropping exercise - I have occasionally seen reviews that barely do anything but list other films the actors have been in, which does not make a Very Helpful or even a Helpful review.There's nothing wrong with copying the cast list from IMDB.COM (International Movie DataBase) or whatever to include it at the end of your review, but this should only be done to augment an already good review - it is not a substitute for analytical reviewing.
(NB - putting in details like this shows you were paying attention… :-P)
If you've seen several similar films, how does the film you're reviewing compare to them? (Comparisons with other films by the same Director / with the same lead actor / etc can also be useful, but use your discretion as to whether they are actually pertinent details or not.)
If you really hated a film, it can be tempting to just rant about it. However, this rarely leads to a good review - just a good rant! The important thing is to retain objectivity - so while you can still be as vitriolic as you like, do it in a way that still focuses on reviewing the film, rather than simply berating it.
You might be tempted sometimes to give a film a better rating than it deserves, hoping that you'll make more money out of it that way - don't. Not only is it not necessarily true (my Lost In Translation review was my highest earner for a while despite the fact that I slated it), but you'll lose the respect of other members. And remember, respect is much easier to lose than gain!
Beware of the option to say what format you watched the film on - if you say DVD but only review the film, without mentioning the DVD extras, you WILL get lower ratings on Ciao, even if your actual film review is brilliant. So if you are reviewing the film only, make sure you select "FILM ONLY" on the "Format Viewed On" drop-down box BEFORE you post your review!!
Guide to Writing a Very Helpful GAME Review
Sound - how good was the sound quality? Where any of the samples clipped (cutting off before they were properly finished)? Did the sound effects suit the game / add to the mood? Was the voice acting good?
The relative difficulty of a game can be a little tricky to assess, but if you think you found a game easy because you play a lot of that genre of game (or vice versa) than tell the reader that - it will stop them from having a false conception of the game's difficulty level. If there are multiple difficulty levels, naturally you would want to mention that.
It's not just the challenge of the game but also the replay factor that counts here. Is it the sort of game you'd go back to again and again? More importantly, is it the sort of game that you'd play again after you'd completed it? Or are you likely to get frustrated and give up?
Having looked at all of the individual facets of the game, how does it come together as a whole? How does it compare to similar games? Given the opportunity to do it all again knowing what you know now, would you still buy the game?
I then give a rundown of various features of the game - graphics, sound, playability, longevity, replayability, value for money, overall - with a rating (%) and a sentence or two covering my overall thoughts about that facet of the game. Again, there's no reason for you to do the same thing, it's just an idea, and some people have commented that they like that approach.
At the moment my favourite Games reviewer is Vspawn. (Some people find his reviews a bit long but I like my game reviews to have plenty of detail in them!)
Writing a really bad review is not as easy as you may think - it takes skill, effort, and (if you want to write a truly risible review) a complete disregard of the English language. Here are some suggestions (by means of realistic example - amazingly reviews as bad as those portrayed here appear on epinions every day - a scary thought - and some examples have indeed made their way onto Ciao too…) of the sort of things you can do in order to write a truly awful review. (Oh okay, if you want to be picky I guess you could also use it as a guide of what sort if things to avoid, too…)***
DIS IS DA BEST FILM WOT I AV SEED EVER. ITS REELLY GUUD AND IS EVEN BETTA THAN THE OTHER FILM WAT I SAW LAST WEAK. I KNOW PEOPLE AV BEEN SAYING ITS RUBBISH BUTT U SHULDNT BLIEV LEM. THEY DONT NOW WOT THEY IS TALLING AB OUT, U FINK EVRYONE SHULD BYE LIS FILM COS IT IS FAB AND IT AS LOTS OF PEOPLE WOT GET KILLD AND THERES LOADS OF BLOOD AND LOTS OF NUDITY AND BAD LANGAGE ITS REALLY WICKED LIKE U NOW WOT I MEEN.***
The book I am reviewing is rubbish. I couldn't even get beyond the second page. But I'm sure you'll appreciate my opinion of a book 238 pages long when I've read less than 1% of it. I don't know why I think this, I just do. I can't understand why everyone has rated it "Not Helpful".***
This store ripped me off so I am going to spend a while just ranting on and on about the fact that I had a bad experience with them and try to convince everyone not to buy from them without the slightest hint of any objectivity.***
i fought this book on corect gramar was reely helpfull. It has helped me too spell and not use words uncorrectly or misappropriately. i feel that my standard of english is now much more better than what it was, and I hope that this is deflected in my reviews.***
This game is rubbish cos I can't play it.***
This review is not actually about the book "Disestablishmentarianism - Is It For You?", but about my feelings towards the philosophy and practicality of disestablishmentarianism. Hey, what are all these "Off Topic" ratings about?!?***
¡Le mejor problema con mi escribiando es que es en espanol! ¡No es un problema por mi, sino por aglunas otros!***
I shall now list the technical specs of the product with no additional information and hope I get "Very Helpful" ratings.***
I am writing several paragraphs about this subject. For instance, it is very good and I thought that the thingamabob was okay. Also the whatjamacallit was excellent, as was the oojamabob.
There were several other things about the wassisname that were very good. Another thing I liked about it was the lack of line breaks between paragraphs.
In what way has the zeitgeist of our generation been illuminated as merely an interpolation of the urban mythology that has grown out of fear and hatred, among those whose intellects have been challenged only by supposed inspiration? What zest for life drove these inconsequential hereditary perplexities into the very existence of hyperbolic reasoning? And what the hell am I talking about?***
Well, I hope you didn't fall asleep during all of that!
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