How to Write a Review

A review is a short description or summary of a book, movie, play, article, etc. Reviews are a common type of academic assignment, so a student should be well aware of the main rules and requirements to be followed when writing reviews. It is also important to get acquainted with the specific features of movie reviews, book reviews, play reviews and article reviews to be able to meet the expectations of your instructor in full and receive a good grade for your work.

Reviews can be formal or informal, depending on your target audience. Most academic reviews should be written in formal style. Basic formal writing rules apply when doing your review. Therefore, be sure not to use the first person in your writing, as well as avoid using too many personal pronouns overall, such as “he, she, they, you”. Furthermore, be sure to use transitions so that your writing will flow more smoothly. It is also a good idea to follow a specific structure when writing your review.

There is a basic structure that all reviews should have, notwithstanding your specific instructions:

a) An introduction. This is where you introduce the story which you are planning to review and specify some background information about the article, movie, play or book where the story is presented. Such information normally includes the year of publication or the day of the premiere, as well as the author or director of the piece. Here you can also mention the general setting and name of the main characters of the story, but there is no need to go into various details at this point.

b) The main body. This part normally consists of two or three paragraphs (while the whole review is about 5 paragraphs long). Here you can list and discuss all the main characteristics of the movie, article, play or book you are reviewing. Be sure to make specific comments on the style of writing or acting, the plot in general, character development, directing, etc. It is best to present the events in time-sequence, even if the movie, book, play or article itself was written or performed in inverse or mixed style.

c) A conclusion. It is best to focus on the results of a director’s or writer’s work, the outcome and responses that the movie, play, article or book received in the media, its degree of success or failure, etc. It is also crucial to give your personal feedback and either recommend or not recommend this piece to the audience. Here, make sure to give specific reasons for your opinion.

The main objective of a review is to give your readers a good idea about the piece of work you are reviewing, enriching it with your personal opinion on the matter, as well as with the opinion of critics. At the same time, it is crucial not to spoil the intrigue for potential readers or viewers. There can be various approaches towards this objective.

Consider the following points to help you write your review:

- Make sure to read the book/article or watch the movie/play you are planning to critique at least two or three times. It is important that you take note of many details while you do that, because a general impression will not be enough to base your review on.

- Support your words with quotes of the author or characters of the story. When it comes to academic reviews, it is important to demonstrate to your instructor that you can take your cue from the text or script and back up your own words with examples from the piece of work you are critiquing.

- Be specific. Too general a review is never a good one. You need to demonstrate your ability to identify important details and nuances.

- Do not attempt to be neutral. A review is supposed to be subjective, so your critical opinion is the key to a good review. Do not be afraid to disagree with other critics. Your opinion has just as much value as theirs as long as you can support it with sound argumentation.

- Use adjectives and adverbs to enrich your writing. They are your main tools when expressing your thoughts and attitude towards the movie, play, book or article you are critiquing.

- Make sure that you give specific recommendations at the end of your review. There is no point in writing a review if you forget to include your recommendations. It would be like doing an analysis without summing up the results. Your recommendations have to be clear and understandable as well as logical and based on your discussion in the main body.

- Do a thorough proofreading. Typographical and grammar mistakes are just as bad a flaw as any other mistake, especially in academic writing. It is best to lay your review aside for a day or two after you have finished writing it, and then proofread the whole text carefully, making sure that there are no run-on sentences, lexical or punctuation mistakes, etc.

Also see best review samples to link theory with practice.

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