Back to Basics: Writing a Review

If there is one form of writing that allows students to express their opinions in full, it’s through a review. Once reaching an Intermediate level, a student’s use of vocabulary, grammar and overall grasp of English is capable of rocketing sky-high. What’s most important however, is the organization of such language skills. Re-arranging our personal opinions and proficient vocabulary can enable us to produce a piece of material that really steals the limelight and stands out in the crowd. Whether your review is of a film, tv show or even a novel, structure is key. Below is a ‘review checklist’, guarenteed to make your writing shine!

1. Target Audience

Stop for a moment. Think carefully about whom you are writing to!

– Are you writing for a magazine, a local newspaper or simply recommending something to a friend? How old are your readers? Are they male or female? These seemingly minor details are in fact of major importance!
– Whoever you are writing for, remember to keep your register appropriate. For instance, is your review meant to be more formal or informal?

2. Purpose

– What is the overall purpose or ‘opinion’ of your review?
– Are you writing a critique that is positive or negative?
– What do you hope to achieve through your review? Are you encouraging readers to engage with your topic, or discouraging them to keep well away and not waste their time and money?

3. Scrap Notes

– Grab a spare piece of paper and make notes on everything you would like to include in your review. Think about characters, performers, plot, setting, editing, costume, music or anything that vividly displays your chosen subject.
– Once you have brainstormed this information on scrap paper, you can start to organize your ideas more clearly. Begin by numbering where in your review this information will be included. Think to yourself, Will this idea come during my introduction.. throughout the middle paragraphs… towards the end?. When you get to this stage of planning, think carefully.
– Once you have numbered your ideas in the order they will appear in your review, you can effectively fine-tune or adjust it’s structure, by breaking your work down into ‘set’ paragraphs. Respect the presentation of your review and you too, will be respected.

4. Content

– Be bold and express yourself with passion and style. A good combination of descriptive adjectives can really give your review that ‘boost’ it needs. Just remember to keep in mind your target audience and selective with your choice of adjectives.
– Be consistent with your use of ‘delivery’. Your review will look much more professional if your tone and use of vocabulary remains clear, consice and coherent (Harrison’s 3’C’s). You ideally want your target audience to take you seriously.

5. Final Drafting

– First, read through your review out loud and check for errors in spelling, grammar and use of pronouns. If you are happy with what you have written, look at your sentence structure. Be sure to use variety of sentences: blend between sentences that are long and complex, to those that are more basic and concise. This will give your review a truly ‘natural’ feel.
– Write your review neatly, read it aloud and most of all, enjoy the language you have produced!

This checklist is applicable to a wide range writing tasks. The next time your teacher sets you some writing, plan using the 5 steps above and you’ll be sure to impress!

H. Smith, 2012