How To Write A Review In 5 Short Paragraphs

I’m getting a class together and one of the assignments is to write a review. A sentence or two on books is nice for Goodreads or Amazon, but if you’d like to write more for a newspaper or blog, here’s my quick and easy guide. Let me know what you think!

cassatt-woman_at_the_opera
Woman at the Opera, Mary Cassatt

Choose something new, exciting, and different to write about. If you write about something that’s been around awhile, you’ll need to have a new angle to cover, like a new exhibit at an existing museum.

Some suggestions include:

  • books, movie, or TV show reviews
  • concert reviews
  • museum and gallery exhibits
  • new restaurants or clubs
  • events happening around town

Paragraph 1 –

The first sentence or the ‘lede’ tells who, what, why, when, where, and how. The lede can be as simple as “A new comic book adventure opened this weekend at theaters across the nation” or more dynamic such as ‘the nation was rocked over the weekend by an unexpected blast as the latest installment in the superhero franchise blew all previous versions out of the theater.”

Paragraphs tend to be short in news with direct sentences. Always write in 3rd person and past tense. Do not use ‘I’ and don’t include your opinion.

Wait? Wha? No opinion in a review? That’s right – a review is not so much your opinion as an analysis of the movie, show, restaurant, etc. based on the established standard.

Instead of saying “This movie is the greatest! You should go see it!” say “This movie beats the earlier superhero movies because of a, b, and c.”

Paragraphs 2 -3

State at least 3 reasons you were attracted to or repulsed by the movie, TV show, restaurant, or event. Name each reason in its own paragraph and provide examples and details. Don’t just say, “the food was great.” Explain the food was “fresh with fish caught that morning and served grilled with a lemon sauce.”

images
Oprah Winfrey, 10/09

For movies or TV, discuss reasons such as acting, lighting, costume, music, setting, photography, etc. DO NOT discuss plot! A good review does not include spoiler alerts!

For books, discuss character, theme, setting, symbolism, tone, language use, etc. Again, DO NOT discuss plot! No spoiler alerts!

Each paragraph should end with a quote. Ask other people, other viewers or customers, what they think to either support your assessment or to add another perspective. Quotes should be formatted like “He’s my favorite actor,” said person’s name.

Everything you write should come from your observation or an interview. Never repeat or reuse anything you read someplace else, even in a quote!

Paragraph 5 –

Summarize your appraisal of the movie, TV show, event, or restaurant. Repeat your reasons for recommending or not recommending it to the reader. Add a final quote, known in broadcast journalism as a kicker, that is a funny or catchy ending. For example, the movie review might end “My boyfriend hated it, but he loves me, so we’ll be back to see it again,” said fan’s name.

FINALLY –

Proofread your article. Read it again – OUT LOUD – to catch and fix any punctuation or grammar errors.

Big newspapers may not be open to reviews, but many small papers such as the freebie at the end of your drive are happy to if you’re professional and competent. Many magazines accept and pay freelancers, so start practicing now and see how far you can get!

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